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Watson Grinding Explosion Highlights Safety Concerns Surrounding Houston Chemical Plants, Refineries


Residents of Harris County are growing increasingly anxious about the chemicals lurking near their homes, following last week’s deadly polypropylene explosion at Watson Grinding & Manufacturing in northwest Houston.

Many Unaware Watson Grinding Stored Hazardous Chemicals

The January 24th disaster tragically killed two workers, injured 20 people – including 18 living near the plant – and caused significant damage to hundreds of homes and businesses in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Prior to the explosion, many living in those neighborhoods apparently had no idea Watson Grinding & Manufacturing was storing any hazardous chemicals.

“I knew buildings were back there but I didn’t know that was back there. I did not have any idea,” one homeowner told KHOU-11.

“We never knew. No,” said the daughter of woman whose home was declared a total loss. “And I feel so guilty, to be honest with you. Because, I found this place for her.”

Harris County Home to Over 3,000 Chemical Plants and Refineries

More than 3,000 chemical plants and refineries are scattered across Harris County, including around 1,700 that house “extremely hazardous substances.” An unknown number store more than 10 million pounds of hazardous chemicals on site.

“These chemical facilities are in neighborhoods all across town, from Baytown to Spring Branch,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told KHOU-11.

Yet there’s no way for residents to easily ascertain what chemicals might be in their own backyard. That’s because a searchable database of Texas chemical facilities simply doesn’t exist.

Harris County Saw 5 Major Chemical Disasters Last Year

Unfortunately, plant explosions and fires are hardly rare for Harris County. In fact, the Houston Metro Region endured five major chemical disasters just last year alone.

The first serious incident occurred on March 16th, when a furnace fire erupted at the ExxonMobil Baytown refinery.

The very next day, a massive tank fire at the ITC-Deer Park petrochemical storage facility forced thousands of people in Houston to shelter-in-place for days, while hundreds sought treatment at area hospitals for sore throats, headaches, nose bleeds, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms likely related to the toxic hydrocarbons released by the blaze.

Click here to view Ryan Zehl’s interview with ABC news about the effects of the ITC explosion.

Only weeks later, an explosion and fire at the KMCO chemical plant in Crosby tragically killed one worker and left two others seriously injured.

More than 60 workers were taken to the hospital on July 31st, following a fire at the  ExxonMobil Olefins plant in Baytown.

Then on November 27th, an explosion at the TPC plant in Port Neches injured three workers and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Trump Allows Plant & Refinery Owners to Keep Public in the Dark

That same month, the Trump administration rolled back vital safety regulations put in place after a catastrophic fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people and virtually destroyed the town of West, Texas.

Sadly, most of those killed in connection with the 2013 disaster were firefighters who had no way of knowing the plant was storing around 270 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate. Yet the regulations eliminated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency included a requirement that plant and refinery operators provide the public with information about the chemicals stored at their facilities.

“We are at the mercy of the company to confirm what’s in there,” Judge Hidalgo noted. “They’re only required to say what they had there, the year prior. And if they violate the law, there’s very little to lose, for them.”

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Our Undefeated Houston Plant Explosion Lawyers have successfully represented thousands of workers and families across Texas, Louisiana, and throughout the United States after every major plant and refinery explosion in recent history, winning billions on their behalf.

If you or a loved one were injured in the Watson Grinding explosion or any other chemical disaster, please call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form.

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