After Watson explosion, Houston alters hazardous material storage rules

flammable gas tanks
One policy change requires Houston businesses to get a permit for storing hazardous materials outside. Previously, it was only required for indoor storage. (Courtesy Pexel)

One policy change requires Houston businesses to get a permit for storing hazardous materials outside. Previously, it was only required for indoor storage. (Courtesy Pexel)

Just under a year after an explosion at Watson Grinding & Manufacturing killed two and damaged over 400 structures, including homes, Houston City Council approved a new set of rules regarding storage of hazardous materials.

“A lot of my constituents have asked what was going to come of this,” said District A Council Member Amy Peck, who represents the northwest area of Houston where the explosion occurred.

“In a city without zoning, this is very important,” Council Member Sallie Alcorn said.

The amendments to an existing ordinance strengthen the fire marshal’s enforcement capabilities and adds libraries, churches, public parks and community centers to the list of locations that businesses that store hazardous materials must stay farther than 1,000 feet away from.

It also requires businesses to apply for permits to store hazardous materials outside. Previously, businesses only needed hazardous material storage permits for indoor storage. The gas that caused the explosion at Watson Grinding & Manufacturing, propylene, was stored outside.



The amendment also creates a committee review process to further vet applications from businesses seeking to alter their storage capabilities. The committee will include a planning official, building official, the fire marshal and the emergency management coordinator, according to the ordinance.

By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.