One year after massive explosion at Watson Grinding, homeowners still dealing with the aftermath

HOUSTON – One year after an explosion devastated the Spring Branch community, homeowners are still dealing with the aftermath. Many homes near the site remain damaged. The blast took place at the Watson Grinding & Manufacturing Company on Jan. 24, 2020.

Neighbor Kelly Mallady remembers that morning. She said she woke up abruptly to what sounded like a plane hitting her home.

“I was in bed, and it was about 4:24 in the morning,” she said. “I jammed my neck and my back. I broke my teeth, and I can’t hold on to stuff.”

On Sunday, Mallady said she is still struggling with the aftermath of the blast.

” Everyday activities take me longer,” she said.

Her home is located within walking distance of the blast site. Her home, she said, was significantly damaged.

“All the walls--everything’s cracked,” she said.

Mallady said her white turned gray rugs show the amount of soot still in the air.

“If you look at the different colors, we’re breathing soot,” she said.

Mallady has spent the last year with her attorney, trying to be made whole. She said her home’s foundation has shifted, causing parts of the home’s structure to buckle.

“I keep trying to tape it,” Mallady said pointing to the cracks around the fireplace.

However, Mallady considers herself lucky. The explosion is being blamed for the death of two Watson Grinding & Manufacturing Co. employees and another person who’s family filed a lawsuit against the company.

Many of Mallady’s neighbors have even more significant damage including windows, doors and garages blown out.

Mallady said dealing with litigation and insurance has been a headache. Neighbors are looking for accountability.

Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed the anniversary of the explosion Sunday.

“You literally don’t know who is living next door to you, so when something like this happens I mean a lot of people are impacted, but I am happy to say in a year’s time we have strengthened the regulatory and review process,” Turner said. “We are in a much better position in terms of regulating what is next to you than we were before the Watson explosion. Unfortunately, it took that to revise the ordinance that was put in place in 1995, and it had not been strengthened or adequately reviewed since 1995.”

“[The homeowners] didn’t cause this explosion, but what happened is they’re suffering and no one’s done anything,” said Eric Dick, Mallady’s attorney with Dick Law Firm. “The Watson case was stuck in federal court was stuck in the bankruptcy court for about a year, and it just recently got to state court. They’re creating an MDL.”

Mallady said she ultimately hopes that the company will be held accountable and that something is done for homeowners soon.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Dick said.

“I just want to sell my house and move out of here,” Mallady said.

The former owners of Watson Grinding & Manufacturing Co. issued this statement Friday through a public relations firm ahead of the anniversary of the explosion:

As we reflect on the terrible event that occurred one year ago, we express our sincere condolences to everyone affected. It is alleged that three deaths were attributed to this tragedy, two of whom were Watson employees. The men who were lost that day, along with their families, will always be in our hearts and prayers.

We also acknowledge the difficulties experienced by our neighbors whose homes and businesses were affected and whose lives were disrupted. We have been inspired by the community’s response.

Over the past year we have worked diligently with state and federal agencies to investigate the incident and to gain a clear understanding of what happened that caused this event. Thank you for your patience as this investigation works toward a conclusion, and we thank the teams of officials, experts and investigators for their professionalism and perseverance in this endeavor. It is in everyone’s best interest to understand what went wrong in order to make sure nothing like this happens in the future.