Tag Archive for: cease and desist

Water Flowing Uphill at Laurel Springs RV Resort

Quick, somebody call Ripley. Against all odds, water appears to be flowing uphill at the Laurel Springs RV Resort.

Note the pond to the left of the detention pond near the tree line. A sharp drop off exists below the bank of the detention pond, toward Edgewater Park on the left. Now see closeup below.

The only apparent source for water in the circle is the pond on the left. But that’s below the water in the circle.

Is this an optical delusion? Or could something else be going on here? Could water actually be leaking through the dike?

Location of Buried Pipe

Back in January, contractors dug a trench through the dike and released the contents of the resort’s detention pond into Edgewater Park.

stormwater runoff discharge
Silty stormwater being discharged into the wetlands of Harris County’s Edgewater Park below the RV resort. January 2022.

Within another day, contractors started burying pipe in the trench and covering it up…at this exact spot where we now apparently see water flowing uphill.

Contractors laying pipe under wall of detention pond to send stormwater into Edgewater Park
Contractors later laying pipe under wall of detention pond to continue sending stormwater into Edgewater Park.

TCEQ traced sediment from the detention pond 450 feet downhill into the county’s park. Harris County then issued a Cease and Desist warning. In it, the County threatened to sue the owners of the RV park.

Later, a contractor told me his company removed the pipe. But I couldn’t find a single nearby resident who saw them do it. Subsequently, I’ve noticed water apparently leaking from the detention pond into the park after several rains…at this same spot! See below.

May 2022. Exact location shown in photos above.

So one possible explanation for this violation of the law of gravity could be that the pipe remains buried in the dike and water leaks through it. But I just can’t believe a contractor would lie to me!

If the pipe remains in the dike, that would seem to violate the owner’s construction permit. It says, in big red letters, “Stormwater Runoff Shall NOT Cross Property Lines.” I can’t believe the developer would violate permit terms either!

It’s hard being a small business owner these days. Do you violate Newton’s Law of Gravity or City law? Given a choice, it might be cheaper to go with Newton. So all things considered, I guess they figured out a way to get water flowing uphill. I’ve heard the owners are marketing geniuses.

I’m sure vacationers would drive their RVs from all across North America to see water flow uphill. Imagine the postcard sales!

Mysterious Black Spots Reappear

But that’s not the only possible tourist attraction. You’ve heard of people getting blood from a stone. At the Laurel Springs RV Resort, oil appears to simply ooze from the ground. Move over Beverly Hillbillies!

Looking North from over Edgewater Park. Note dark areas in red circle and see magnified image below. Photo taken 8/11/22.
From a legal height, I shot straight down and photographed an oily sheen on the black spots.

This is the same location where I previously photographed contractors covering up black spots on several occasions. See one below.

Mysterious black spots in Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Pond
Mysterious black spots in Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Pond on March 10, 2022. Note bulldozer tracks.

Every time contractors cover them up, they reappear. The TCEQ could not determine the origin of the dilute sample they found after one coverup. And Railroad Commission logs show no pipelines or abandoned wells in the area. So it’s officially a mystery.

Never ones to pass up a marketing opportunity, the RV resort owners reportedly hope to hire Max Baer, Jr., the last surviving member from the classic Beverly Hillbillies sitcom from the 1960s and 70s. Rumor has it, they want the 83-year-old Baer, who played Jethro, to be the first person through the gates at the grand opening. He would reportedly pass out samples of the oily substance so that RV owners across America can live the dream and tell their grandchildren how they struck oil while vacationing in Texas.

Concrete Galore

In another feat of marketing genius, the developer convinced the City of Houston permitting people that one third of the property would NOT be impervious cover, i.e., concrete.

Developer claims only 2/3rds impervious cover. From Detention Plans.

The developer is not yet done with pouring concrete. But it appears as if it will cover a lot more than 2/3rds of the site.

Will one third really be pervious?

By the way, according Section 9.1.04.O of the City’s Infrastructure Design Manual, detention ponds count as 100% impervious cover regardless of whether they have wet or dry bottoms. So the pond doesn’t count toward the one-third – just those skinny slots between RV parking spaces. And does it look like they add up to seven acres!?

It looks like Harry Houdini would have a hard time squeezing between the narrower ones. Of course, Houdini died in the 1920s. So how will they divert attention from this one? The developer reportedly wants to hire David Blaine, reputed to be the world’s greatest living escape artist, to appear at the grand opening. Blaine will show anyone who complains about the tight parking spots how to squeeze into his/her RV.

I can’t wait for the star-studded grand opening when I get to see water flowing uphill, Jethro passing out oil, and City inspectors lining up for David Blaine’s autograph.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/11/2022

1808 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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.

Text of Houston’s Cease and Desist Letter to Perry Homes Regarding Sediment Discharges from Woodridge Village

The full text of the City of Houston’s controversial Cease and Desist letter to Perry Homes regarding the recent flooding in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest, has finally been made public. Raines Rushin, an Elm Grove resident obtained the letter(s) through a TPIA request (Texas Public Information Act).

Summary of Letter

The letter focuses on the discharge of stormwater containing sand, silt, and sediment from the Woodridge Village construction site on September 19, 2019. Further, the letter alleges that this discharge caused severe damage to the City of Houston’s “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System” (MS4) and to the property of citizens.

It cites a City of Houston Ordinance: Article XII – Storm Water Discharges, Division 6 – Illicit Discharges and Connections, Section 47-741. The ordinance reads as follows. “Discharge to MS4 prohibited (a) A person commits an offense if the person threatens to introduce, introduces or causes to be introduced into the MS4 any discharge that is not composed entirely of storm water.”

The letter ends by saying, “I hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist all future discharges of sand, silt, sediment and debris from your Woodridge Village Development site into the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System of the City of Houston.”

Lawrence Childress, from the Stormwater Quality department within Public Works, signed it. Childress sent identical copies of the letter to:

  • Perry Homes
  • Figure Four Partners, Ltd. (A Perry subsidiary)
  • Double Oak Construction (A Perry contractor)

To see the full text, including addresses, click here.

What the Letter Does and Doesn’t Do

The letter is a “demand letter” not a court order. A demand letter is a warning shot across the bow of Perry Homes. The letter simply says, “If you do it again, we’re coming after you.”

Having said that, the demand letter does put Perry et. al. on notice. It describes the basis for legal action if the developer(s) allow sediment-laden storm water to leave their site again. As such, it has value in that it may motivate Perry, its subsidiary and contractor to fix problems that exist on the site. If they don’t and the problems recur, they will face a law suit.

The letter may also have value in that it eliminates a possible line of defense, i.e., ignorance of the fact that a problem existed. Perry Homes can not now claim that the City never told them of the problems.

Another benefit: Judges typically like parties in civil suits to try to settle their grievances outside of court if they can. This letter constitutes the first step in that process. It starts the “attempted settlement” clock ticking sooner rather than later.

Sides Are Talking, But No Concrete Results So Far

Having said that, the date on the letter says September 26. What has happened since then?

Representatives of the City met with Perry Homes et. al. on or about October 15. As a result of that meeting, the developers agreed to take the steps outlined in a second letter back to the City. Basically, that letter promised to finish all the detention ponds before building homes or more roads. But they did not agree to a firm deadline.

Residents observed minor activity after the City’s demand letter. Workers scraped eroded sediment out of one of their detention ponds. However, since then, residents have observed little to no activity on the site. No new excavation work has started on the three detention ponds on the northern section since Perry’s response letter on Thursday, October 17.

Reason for Lack of Progress May Go Deeper

In November of 2018, Perry said they hoped to be selling homes by the summer of 2019. So much for the idea of possibly needing another 780 days to finish the detention ponds!

The question is “Why the sudden stoppage after finishing the second detention pond (S2) on the souther section?” Usually time is money on a construction site; developers want to finish sooner rather than later. But work has virtually come to a standstill since August.

Since then residents have observed the S2 pond perpetually filled with water. To reach the pond’s target depth, contractors had to pump out water as they worked. Some question whether the water table in the area will allow Perry to achieve its stormwater detention goals. This would not be too surprising for an area of wetlands once criss-crossed by streams. Drainage converged here for thousands of years. See the drainage illustration from the LJA Engineering report below. The purple line represents the boundaries of Woodridge Village. Look closely at Section B.

Note all the streams converging in section B where Perry hopes to build 3 detention ponds and hundreds of homes. The streams have already been filled in with dirt.

Troubling Inconsistency in Letter

The City said in the cease and desist letter to Perry Homes et. al. that the sediment had caused severe damage to the City’s storm sewers. However, the City did not specify what damages were. And in public meetings in Elm Grove and at the Kingwood Community Center, Council Member Dave Martin told residents that the storm drains were NOT blocked. He said, “they’re so clean you could eat off them.” I’m not sure whether the drains are blocked or not.

The City has not yet completed its investigation of the sewers. But this is a troubling inconsistency. Frankly, looking at the ankle-deep much on Village Springs Drive next to Woodridge, I find it hard to see how the storm drains could NOT have sediment in them.

Abel Versa had to grab his car to avoid slipping in ankle-deep sediment on Village Springs. Rainwater alone would not have deposited so much muck.
Sand also covered the one street in Woodridge Village two days after Imelda. Note the height of the sand pushed up against and over silt fences by the storm.

If Perry is sincere about fixing this mess, they need to come clean (pun intended). They need to explain why they have stopped work in the face of such clear cut danger. They have substantially completed only 23 percent of the detention on their site and have stopped work. The public deserves to know why.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/21/2019 with help from Nancy Vera, Jeff Miller, Bill Fowler, Amy Slaughter, Judith Rehak, Josh Alberson and Raines Rushin

783 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 32 since Imelda

All thoughts in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

City of Houston Files Cease-and-Desist Order Against Perry Homes, Double Oak, and Figure Four Partners

Houston City Council Member Dave Martin would like for Kingwood residents to know that the City of Houston has filed cease-and-desist orders against Perry Homes, Double Oak Construction, Inc., and Figure Four Partners, Ltd. for the discharge of stormwater from the Woodridge Village development site. 

Erosion within Woodridge Forest. Photo taken two days after Imelda on 9/21/2019
How the streets looked in Elm Grove on 9/20/2019.

Basis of Cease-and-Desist Order

These cease-and-desist orders were issued in response to the discharge of sand, silt, sediment, and debris from the development site into the Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) on September 19, 2019. 

This discharge is in direct violation of City of Houston Ordinance: ARTICLE XII. – STORM WATER DISCHARGES, DIVISION 5 – ILLICIT DISCHARGES AND CONNECTIONS, Section 47-741 – Discharge to MS4 prohibited (a)   A person commits an offense if the person threatens to introduce, introduces or causes to be introduced into the MS4 any discharge that is not composed entirely of storm water.

Severe Damage to COH Property and Citizens

This discharge has caused severe damage to the City of Houston’s MS4 and to the property of the citizens of the City of Houston. 

As a result of this discharge, the City of Houston started last week a 12-week extensive investigation of the stormwater system located within Elm Grove and other effected communities within the far northeast section of Kingwood. This investigation is currently 10 percent complete. 

Another Update Coming on October 17

Another update on this investigation will be provided during the Council Member Martin’s Kingwood Town Hall Meeting to be held on Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. located at the Kingwood Community Center (4102 Rustic Woods, Kingwood, TX 77345). 

Council Member Martin is actively pursuing additional measures to be taken to further protect the residents of Kingwood. Although he has not yet specified what those are, members of his staff implied that they may be seeking to throw executives for the defendants into jail until the situation is remedied.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/2/2019

764 Days After Hurricane Harvey and 13 after Imelda