TCEQ Again Cites Colony Ridge for Lack of Pollution Controls

This morning, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), notified me that they again cited the controversial Colony Ridge development in Liberty County for lack of pollution controls.

In early June, TCEQ reprimanded Colony Ridge after eight separate investigations into its construction practices. Last October, TCEQ said Colony Ridge construction practices had a “reasonable likelihood of endangering human health.” This new investigation showed the developer and its contractor, D. Burton Construction LLC, had still not implemented best management practices as required by regulations and the company’s own stormwater pollution prevention plan. To see aerial photos of that I took of the area under investigation in late May, click here.

Area of investigation. The dotted triangle in the lower left is the northeastern tip of Harris County.

For the full 185-page TCEQ report, click here. For a summary of the contents and findings, read below.

Summary of Findings: Investigation #1736609

On June 15, 2021, the investigator found active construction along Long Branch Creek. He noted that the slopes of the creek were not stabilized. He also found un-stabilized sediment piles along the banks of the creek, a damaged silt fence, and an unstabilized drainage channel. Additionally, the slopes of Long Branch Creek were also un-stabilized.

Continuing north into Section 12, the investigator noted more un-stabilized sediment piles on the edges of un-stabilized drainage ditches connected to Long Branch Creek. The slopes of Long Branch Creek were also un-stabilized in Section 12. While documenting active land clearing, the investigator noted an unprotected tributary that flows into Tarkington Bayou.

After reviewing the site’s stormwater pollution prevention plan, the investigator determined that Section 12 did not have erosion control measures installed as prescribed.

TCEQ Investigation #1736609

The investigation confirmed lack of best management practices at the construction site. One alleged violation was issued: Failure to install minimum controls.

From Attachment 4, “Unstabilized slopes in Long Branch Creek. Unstabilized sediment piles on the banks of Long Branch Creek.”
More unstabilized slopes and unstabi­lized sediment piles leading to Long Branch Creek from Attachment 4.

As per the Construction General Permit (CGP), D. Burton Construction LLC was required to “design install and maintain effective erosion controls and sediment controls to minimize the discharge of pollutants” and to document compliance with the stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP).

That part of the document takes up the first four pages.

Supporting Documentation

A series of attachments make up the the next 181 pages.

  • Attachment 1: Vicinity Map
  • Attachment 2: TCEQExit Interview sent on June 24, 2021
  • Attachment 3: Permit Information
  • Attachment 4: Investigation Photographs
  • Attachment 5: Photo Locations Map
  • Attachment 6: Flyover Photographs
  • Attachment 7: Records Request Sent on June 16, 2021
  • Attachment 8: Response to Records Request

Purpose of SWPPP and Control Measures

The primary purpose of erosion control is to protect surface waters. To do that, TCEQ says contractors should protect slopes and channels.

“Convey concentrated storm water runoff around the top of slopes and stabilize slopes as soon as possible. This can be accomplished using pipe slope drains or earthen berms or other flow controls that will convey runoff around the exposed slope.”

“Avoid disturbing natural channels and the vegetation along natural channels, if possible.”


The SWPPP also contains a lengthy discussion of erosion and sediment controls beginning on page 78. I recommend it for anyone who thinks he/she may be receiving eroded sediment from a construction site.

Soil Report Largely Consistent with Earlier Findings Showing Need for Detention Ponds

Starting on page 128, you can also read an extensive custom soil report from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

It shows extensive wetlands in the area under development and low-permeability soils, consistent with the soils I reported on December 20 of last year. The soils are also consistent with all the ponding shown on the map above.

They suggest this area will have a high amount of runoff after development. Little water will sink into the soils. And that could increase downstream flooding, unless the developer installs sufficient detention pond capacity.

Colony Ridge is in Liberty County. But if Harris County guidelines applied, they call for .55 acre feet of detention capacity per acre (for developments greater than 640 acres). Thus, if the area under development is 1200 acres, that would call for 660 acre feet of detention ponds (or 100 acres – six and a half feet deep). I saw nothing that large during my last flyover at the end of May.

Downstream Impacts

The rivers of mud previously documented coming out of Colony Ridge have impacted Tarkington Bayou, Luce Bayou, Rocky Branch, Long Branch, and the East Fork San Jacinto. Eroded sediment from this area is likely contributing to the giant mouth bar now setting up on the East Fork. That will cost the City of Houston tens of millions of dollars to dredge.

It’s not clear at this time whether the developer has improved his erosion-control measures. Two calls to the TCEQ have not yet been returned.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/3/2021 based on TCEQ Investigation #1736609

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