The Harris County Attorney's Office filed a lawsuit Jan. 30 against Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, the company at the center of an explosion on Jan. 24 that killed two people and damaged an estimated 450 homes.
In a press release, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said Watson discharged air pollutants into the atmosphere, including propylene, at the time that a 2,000-gallon tank of propylene exploded. The release goes on to describe the way Watson operated as "in a reckless manner demonstrating a conscious indifference to welfare and safety of others, including employees and nearby residents."
“Watson’s use of propylene was an ultra-hazardous activity and the company failed to exercise its duty of care to protect the public, particularly when the facility is located in a neighborhood," Ryan said in a statement.
Harris County also alleges that Watson violated the Texas Clean Air Act, including by conducting outdoor burning without a permit, discharging air contaminants in a way that could adversely affect humans and failing to report an unauthorized emissions event.
The county is requesting a temporary restraining order that would require Watson to cease all operations at the site until the Houston Fire Department and an independent third-party expert can complete a hazard analysis.
"The County wants a detailed inventory of all substances, products, and materials located at Watson and wants Watson ordered to share any air, water or soil samples it took and their analyses of these samples," according to the release.
In a statement obtained by our partners with ABC 13, officials with Watson Grinding said they are cooperating with the investigation and are withholding comment on the litigation for now.
Several other lawsuits have been filed against Watson on behalf of residents in the area as a well as a wrongful death lawsuit filed Jan. 26 by the family of Frank Flores, one of the employees killed in the accident.
Harris County sues company at center of Gessner Road explosion
An investigation is underway at the site of a facility explosion on Gessner Road. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)