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Houston City Council Tightens Chemical Storage Rules to Prevent Future Plant Explosions


The Houston City Council recently passed an ordinance that beefs up regulations on businesses that store hazardous chemicals within the city limits.

Ordinance Inspired by Watson Grinding Explosion

The measure was approved on December 16th and updates Houston’s “Hazardous Enterprises” ordinance, which outlines permit requirements for businesses dealing with toxic chemicals. Proponents of the new ordinance hope to prevent a repeat of the Watson Grinding explosion that killed three people and damaged dozens of homes in Spring Branch this past January.

“There’s still work to be done, at the state lege and other places to better protect our residents and neighborhoods from things they know about and things they don’t know about that exist in their neighborhoods,” At-Large Council Member Sallie Alcorn told Houston Public Radio. “In a city without zoning, this kind of thing is really important.”

What Houston’s New Ordinance Does

Previously, Houston businesses housing dangerous materials couldn’t operate within 1,000 feet of childcare facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. The new ordinance adds libraries, churches, public parks, and community centers to that list.

The measure also closes a loophole that exempted businesses from stricter requirements if they stored hazardous materials outside rather than inside. Other changes include clarifying language in the ordinance and establishing a review process for appeals and modifications.

About the Watson Grinding Explosion

The Watson Grinding explosion jolted residents of the northwest Houston neighborhood from their sleep early on the morning of January 24, 2020,

Two plant workers died tragically while they were using the facility’s gym. A 47-year-old man died nearly two weeks later from injuries sustained in his home. Dozens of other people living near the plant were hurt, and nearly 500 homes and businesses were damaged.

Zehl & Associates represents the family of two children, ages 3 and 7, who were seriously injured when their ceilings collapsed on them while sleeping.

The Watson Grinding explosion followed a series of industrial accidents in the region during 2019, including the fire at the ITC petrochemical facility in Deer Park and an explosion at the TPC chemical plant in Port Neches.

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