The TCEQ says discharges of sediment-laden stormwater are not allowed across public or private property under the terms of its Construction General Permit.
Two weeks ago, I photographed contractors at the Laurel Springs RV Resort construction site discharging silty stormwater from its detention pond into the wetlands and cypress ponds of Harris County’s Precinct 4 Edgewater Park.
Not long after that, I photographed them laying pipe in the trench to create a permanent conduit for stormwater into the park.
Response From Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
So, I emailed the photos to people at the TCEQ responsible for water quality, Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans, and Construction General Permits. I asked if their permit allowed them to discharge silty stormwater into Edgewater Park. The short answer: NO.
Earl Lott, Director of the Water Quality Division of the TCEQ wrote back a lengthy email. In it, he concluded…
CGP Covers Activities During Construction, SWP3 Prior to Construction
Mr. Lott also noted that “Large construction site operators must comply with the conditions of the stormwater Construction General Permit (CGP) TXR150000 under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) Program. The CGP requires construction operators to control pollutants in stormwater during construction activities. Construction site primary operators that disturb greater than one acre of land are required to develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3) and implement best management practices (BMPs) prior to construction activities beginning.” [Emphasis added.]
“As part of the SWP3,” Lott continued, “a description of BMPs used to prevent and reduce pollution in stormwater must be included and the BMPs must be inspected and evaluated to determine the effectiveness of controlling stormwater leaving the property.”
“The SWP3 must include a description of any sediment control practices used to remove eroded soils from stormwater runoff, such as a sedimentation basin. These controls must minimize sediment discharges from the site,” said Lott. [Emphasis added.]
So what did the Laurel Springs RV Resort’s SWP3 and Permit obligate them to do? For the full text of this 162 page document, click here. (14 Meg Download). The first have of this document includes the SWP3. The second includes the permit to discharge under the Texas Pollution Discharge Elimination System. There are many redundancies between the two. I’ll cover the SWP3 today and the Permit another day.
Concerns About SWPPP Plan
I want to make it clear that Mr. Lott’s comments related only to discharges of stormwater into Edgewater Park. However, after reading the RV Resort’s SWP3 and Permit, I have personal concerns listed below. The TCEQ may or may not share them. The TCEQ has up to 60 days from the date of an initial complaint to file a full report.
Based on my observations, contractor performance does not match contractor promises in the SWP3 in many cases. Also, several key elements of the plan were left blank. And some claims were just plain false, misleading or erroneous.
Below is a list of my concerns. You may find others.
- The plan is undated and appears never to have been revised even though it should have been.
- Clearing started in October. As Lott said, the contractor should have put pollution prevention measures in place before construction, but didn’t.
- Page 15 – The discussion of runoff coefficients is misleading. If sand comprised the top 18 inches of soil, water would not still be ponding on the site. We’ve had less than an inch of rain in the last 20 days. It would appear that the contractor overstated the potential for water to infiltration.
- Pages 16 and 17 – Construction schedule left blank.
- Page 18 – Says locations of support activities are included, but blanks not filled in.
- Page 18 – Says no wetlands have been found near site when adjoining property is full of them.
- Page 18 – Can’t see where they planned temporary erosion control measures during construction. Until yesterday, they had no silt fencing along the southern property line and still have no along the western property line.
- Page 18 – No source listed for fill materials. They have used Sprint Sand & Clay. But Sprint’s contract prohibits them placing fill in the 500-year flood plain. I have photographed the contractor spreading Sprint fill into the 500-year area.
- Page 22 – Contractor lists the size of the site as 20 acres and claims 20 acres are sandy loam. But then he says 20 acres out of 20 acres is 74%. Hmmmm. No wonder he has six tax forfeitures in his past.
- Page 22 – Contractor relied on USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for soil data. But NRCS says its data is invalid for a site of this size. It falls below the limits of resolution for NRCS sampling.
- Page 34 – Before clearing, contractor failed to mark the southern property line. Employees then cut down a corridor of trees approximately 50 feet wide for a distance of about 750 feet. Contractor then piled dirt in corridor which eroded into Edgewater Park.
- Page 40 – I can see no measures in use to slow down velocity of sheet flow.
- Page 40 – I can see no temporary erosion controls in place on portions of the site where they are no longer working.
- Page 41 – Exits have been mud pits so vehicles have tracked dirt out of the site and spread it into streets where it washes into storm sewers.
- Page 41 – They have perimeter protection installed only along one side and have even bypassed that.
- Page 42 – No protection of storm sewer inlets until yesterday (about 5 months late).
- Page 42 – They claim a sediment basin would put public safety as risk, but don’t explain why.
- Page 42 – Contractor should have drained the detention pond through a 24 inch reinforced concrete pipe leading to the City’s storm sewer system, but chose to use the wetlands in Edgewater Park instead.
- Page 43 – Says discharge of standing water into a storm sewer will not be allowed, but residents have photographed them doing it.
- Page 43 – Covers vehicles tracking dirt out of the site. It requires stabilized construction entrances and/or regular street sweeping. This is basic “good housekeeping” stuff that has been in short supply since this construction site found the spotlight.
- Page 44 – Says “No discharges of Stormwater…will take places under this SWPPP.” See photos above.
- Page 45 – Says “Maintenance and repairs will be conducted within 24 hours of inspection report.” But only in the last two days has the contractor started removing eroded dirt from the county’s park caused by the discharge weeks ago.
- Page 45 – Says “Sediment will be removed from sediment fences … before it reaches 50% of the above ground height of the barrier.” Sediment was placed against the new southern silt fence that already exceeds that height.
- Section 8 on page 45 requires the contractor to select the most effective erosion control measures for specific site conditions from a page-long list of options. The contractor chose NONE.
How To Report Violations to the TCEQ
I urge residents who live close to the RV Resort to read the SWPPP and report additional violations/problems to the TCEQ if they see them.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/13/22
1629 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.