A review of construction plans for detention ponds and other site work in the troubled Woodridge Village subdivision revealed several deficiencies in the contractor’s performance to date. These deficiencies contributed to the widespread flooding on May 7 in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. They have also affected life in those and other neighboring communities for months.
The plans submitted by LJA Engineers for Job #2027-1100L are dated July, 2018. Both the City of Houston and Montgomery County approved them. The plans specify responsibilities for Rebel Contractors.
Deficiencies include, but are not limited to, inadequate detention, poor drainage, missing silt fencing, not displaying permits, failure to repair damage to streets, and lack of supervision.
Missing Silt Fencing
Let’s start with a pretty standard one: silt fencing. Their purpose is to control runoff that carries silt into streets and sewers. The objective: avoid clogged storm drains that can exacerbate flooding and require expensive remediation.
The law requires contractors to erect silt fencing BEFORE they even clear the land. The contractor completed clearcutting the land adjacent to Elm Grove last November. But when I visited the job site on May 9 of this year – six months later – I could see no silt fencing…anywhere.
On May 16, one day after the LJA site inspection, I took this picture.
Page 6, Point #5 says, “Contractor must inspect all structural controls at a minimum once every seven days and within 24 hours after a storm event that meets or exceeds .5 inches per 24 hour period.” Structural controls would include the silt fencing that wasn’t installed for 6 months.
Does it really make a difference? Look at the water quality in these two pictures taken by Jeff Miller in front of his home in Elm Grove.
Says Miller, the homeowner who took the pictures above, “Certainly in addition to suspended solids, there were also dissolved chemicals and biological materials (eg., diatoms) swept into Taylor Gully and our drinking water.” Miller is a retired project manager for a large pharmaceutical company and knows about the importance of avoiding contamination.
Missing or Inadequate Supervision
Several pages in the plans, including the cover page, specify that a professional engineer must monitor construction to ensure compliance with construction plans and specifications. If that person was doing his/her job, how could he/she possibly miss the lack of silt fencing…which is also specified on numerous pages? You should have to climb over it to get into the site!
Page 2, Column 1, Point #3 states, “Contractor shall be responsible for damages to existing water, wastewater, and storm drainage lines.” According to residents and maps available on the Montgomery County Appraisal District web site, the contractor filled in existing drainage before Elm Grove flooded; it never had before.
Also on Page 2, Column 1, Point #5 states, “Adequate drainage shall be maintained at all times during construction and any drainage ditch or structure disturbed during construction shall be restored to existing conditions or better.” Again, the contractor filled in existing drainage, did not restore it, and Elm Grove flooded. The contractor also worked on the site for six months without installing the main detention pond in the area to where all water was draining. After the flood, it took them only a day or so to excavate most of the pond. Why wait so long?
Here’s where it should have gone.
Page 2, Column 1, Point #8 states, “Any damage to any of the existing pavement and/or utilities must be repaired immediately. The contractor must notify the appropriate utility owner who will make the repairs at the contractor’s expense.” People in Porter have been complaining for months about how heavy construction traffic has crumbled their asphalt streets.
Keeping Pipe Free of Dirt
Page 2, Column 1, Point #15 states, “All pipe and reinforcement steel shall be kept free of dirt and other debris. Any damage to the coating of the various materials must be repaired.” See image below. Nuff said.
Maintaining Adequate and Positive Drainage at All Times
Page 2, Column 1, Point #16 says, “Contractor shall be responsible for maintaining adequate and positive drainage at all times during construction of proposed facilities.” If the adequate part was true, Edy Cogdill could not have shot this video of water pouring out of the construction site and flooding Village Springs Drive.
It is also unlikely that the high water rescue vehicle below would have been necessary on May 7.
No Traffic Controls
Page 2, Column 4, Point #1 under Traffic Notes states, “Contractor shall provide and install traffic control devices in conformance with Part VI of the Texas Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.” No traffic control devices are installed anywhere around the site as of this writing, yet construction machinery barges right out into traffic, as this equipment did in front of me. With one way in and out of this neighborhood, residents complain that they have had to wait up to half an hour while large equipment gets stuck in ditches.
Page 6, Point #10 says, “Contractor is responsible for cleaning mud and or dirt tracked onto existing streets, by his workman’s, contractor’s or suppliers’ vehicles. Street must be cleared within 24 hours of when the tracking occurs.” Above, I caught the contractor dumping dirt on the street, in a feeble attempt to shore up the shoulder to widen the turning radius. The contractor succeeded only in further destroying the street. He should have widened his own driveway instead.
Complying with Environmental Laws
Page 6, Point #3 states, “Contractor will be responsible for complying with all environmental laws.” One such law stipulates that the contractor isn’t supposed to let silty water leave the site; hence the discussion of silt fences above. Another states that they must post their Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permits at site entrances. I looked high and low for those without success for the week after the flood. Then suddenly on May 16, I saw this posted.
Such notices enable residents to file complaints when they notice violations. Not posting the notice makes it difficult to know where to complain or about whom to complain. If you have seen other suspicious activities you wish to report, here’s all about Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans. They’re supposed to be monitored by the TCEQ.
But in this case, the TCEQ turfed the investigation to LJA Engineering, which was paid by both the developer (to plan the site) and Montgomery County (to inspect permit compliance).
I could go on and on. (Actually, I’m just getting warmed up.) There are 26 pages of plans relating to the detention and drainage. Download them for yourself and let me know what else you find.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/23/2019 with help from Jeff Miller, Gretchen Dunlap-Smith and Abel Vera
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