The month after Woodridge Village flooded Elm Grove Village and North Kingwood Forest for the first time in May, 2019, the TCEQ investigated construction practices there. In the ensuing months, six investigations found 13 violations on the Woodridge site.
More than two years later, the charges against Double Oak Construction will finally be heard by TCEQ Commissioners in their September 9 meeting. This is basically a water quality case that has to do with pollution of Taylor Gully, the San Jacinto East Fork and Lake Houston. Charges include failure to:
- Prevent sediment-laden discharge
- Prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
- Correctly identify receiving waters for the discharge
- Implement and maintain effective best management practices.
On TCEQ Commissioners Docket for September 9
Item 29 on their docket reads:
No. 2019-1513-WQ-E. Consideration of an Agreed Order assessing administrative penalties and requiring certain actions of Double Oak Construction, Inc. in Montgomery County; RN110478583; for water quality violations pursuant to Tex. Water Code chs. 7 and 26 and the rules of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including specifically 30 Tex. Admin. Code ch. 60.
Water samples taken by the investigators showed that at the outfall:
- Total Suspended Solids were 70 times higher compared to upstream
- Total Dissolved Solids were almost 18 times higher.
Double Oak had been hired to clear and grub the site. That means removing trees and roots.
Definition of Agreed Order
This enforcement action by the TCEQ falls into a category called an “Agreed Order.” A website called USLegal.com defines an agreed order as: “An Agreed Order refers to a written agreement submitted by the parties to a case resolving the issues between them. Once the agreed order is approved by the court and entered in its minutes, it becomes the order or decree of the court with all of the force and effect that any order would have after a full hearing prior to adjudication.”
However, they add: “…until then, an ‘agreed order’ is no order at all, but merely an agreement of the parties. It has no significance … until a judicial … decision gives it significance.” TCEQ Commissioners will take that step on September 9.
Double Oak Penalties Unclear
Documents supplied in response to a FOIA request did not discuss what the penalties might entail for Double Oak. The company left the construction site long ago. It has since been sold to Harris County Flood Control and the City of Houston for a regional stormwater detention basin and sewage treatment plant. So it’s not as if Double Oak can make good by simply agreeing to clean up its act.
Typically, such cases involve a modest fine. The significance in this case: Double Oak apparently is admitting wrongdoing before a decision or settlement has been reached in hundreds of homeowner lawsuits downstream. More on those at a later date.
For More Information
For more on what led to the lawsuits, see:
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/31/2021
1463 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 712 Days since Imelda
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.