Tag Archive for: Double Oak

TCEQ Commissioners to Consider Agreed Order With Double Oak Construction on Woodridge Village Enforcement Action

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.

Unchecked erosion from site polluted water downstream with suspended solids 70 times higher than upstream.
Abel Vera had to grab his car to avoid slipping in ankle-deep sediment on Village Springs. Vera lives next to Woodridge.

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:

Elm Grove Residents Look for Answers and Don’t Have to Look Far

What Went Wrong Part 1

What Went Wrong Part 2

What Went Wrong Part 3

What Went Wrong Part 4

What Went Wrong Part 5

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.

TCEQ Blasts Colony Ridge, Says Construction Practices Could Adversely Affect Human Health

A seven-month-long TCEQ investigation of Colony Ridge construction practices resulted in a 184-page report that confirmed allegations of erosion and silt flowing uncontrolled into ditches and streams. The investigation resulted in a “notice of enforcement.”

TCEQ Alleges Permit Violations Affecting Human Health

TCEQ found the Colony Ridge developer in violation of its Construction General Permit for failure to install even minimum controls such as silt fences and vegetative buffer strips.

As a result, the report says the developer failed to prevent discharges that “contribute to a violation of water quality standards” and that have “a reasonable likelihood of adversely affecting human health or the environment.”

Investigators found unstabilized and unprotected drainage channels connecting 3,678.69 acres of disturbed land to unprotected streams and creeks. Sediment now almost completely fills some of those streams. They lead to Luce Bayou and and the East Fork San Jacinto River, which empty into Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

Lack of Construction Best Management Practices

Colony Ridge’s Construction General Permit does not authorize discharges into Texas surface waters. Yet investigators found:

  • Drainage ditches with unstabilized soil on their sides
  • A drainage ditch with completely destabilized sides
  • Sediment deposition in multiple creeks
  • One creek channel almost completely filled by sediment
  • Culverts blocked with sediment
  • A washed out road
  • Water samples with elevated levels of dissolved and suspended solids as high as 1370 milligrams/liter (suspended) and 6360 (solid)…
  • ...All tied to inadequate or non-existent best management practices

See photos below.

Self-Reports in Stark Contrast to TCEQ Report

In contrast, the construction superintendent’s own inspection checklists (pages 51-78) rated virtually all erosion-prevention measures that the company did employ as “acceptable.” However, he also indicated that the company did not use most common protective measures, such as vegetation, sod, silt fences and detention basins; claiming they were “not applicable.” His report on 2/19/20 contained a note indicating the construction site “Looks good.” His last weekly report before the complaint that triggered the investigation found no “action items.”

Get the Picture

Pages 139 to 159 of the report (Attachment 13) and pages 167-171 (attachment 17) show photographs of almost five dozen violations that contradict the construction manager’s reports.

Below is a sampling of ten photos from the report. The TCEQ investigator took them all on 6/16/2020. He also provided the captions. Page numbers refer to the full TCEQ report.

Downstream view of Rocky Branch Creek. Washed out road in background. Photo 2 out of 57. Page 141.
Destabilized banks along Long Branch Creek and sediment deposition in creek channel. Note: the creek channel almost completely filled in by sediment. Photo 17 of 57. Page 146.
Unstabilized drainage channels in Section 7 that are tied into Long Branch Creek. Photo 20 of 57. Page 147.
Area surrounding Long Branch Creek destabilized with no BMPs installed around the creek. Note unstabilized sediment piles next to the creek. Photo 30 of 57, Page 151.
Area surrounding Long Branch Creek destabilized with no BMPs installed around the creek. Note unstabilized sediment piles next to the creek. Photo 32 of 57, Page 151.
Sediment and debris in cement culvert that allows Long Branch Creek to flow underneath Section 5 entrance road. Photo 40 of 57. Page 154.
Sediment and debris in cement culvert that allows Long Branch Creek to flow underneath Section 5 entrance road. Photo 41 of 57. Page 154.
Inadequate BMPs in drainage ditch that leads to Long Branch Creek. Note: Undercut silt fence. Photo 44 of 57, page 155.
Sediment deposition in unnamed creek channel right before Long Branch Creek. Note sediment line on cree. Sediment line is demarcated by pocket knife in red circle. Photo 48 of 57. Page 156.
Sediment in a drainage ditch that is tied into an unnamed creek. Note over-capacitated silt fence. Photo 53 of 57. Page 158.

Personal Observations Corroborate Report

Based on personal observations, I don’t think the investigator exaggerated. On the contrary, he may not have captured the full scope the hazards. Some can only be seen from the air. As luck would have it, I flew a helicopter over Colony Ridge on the same day the investigator captured his photos. Here are two from the air and one from the ground.

Washed out ditches abounded.
The developer was clearing more land before previously developed areas could be stabilized.
Silt fence being propped up to allow raw sewage to flow underneath it into Luce Bayou, which empties into Lake Houston.

Other Strangeness

Colony Ridge hired Merit Professional Services in Flower Mound, a Dallas/Fort Worth suburb. Merit obtains stormwater pollution prevention permits and also provides stormwater inspection services. However, according to the complainant in this case, Merit claimed they only provided the permit, but not inspection services. Lack of local oversight may have been a large part of the problem.

Page 182 of the TCEQ report contains an August 12, 2020, memo from Landplan Engineering to the investigator. It states that, “Going forward, Colony has switched to Double Oak since they are headquartered in the Houston Area.” Double Oak provides the same services and then some. Their website shows they offer construction, erosion control and stormwater management.

Ironically, Double Oak Construction is a defendant in the Elm Grove lawsuits against Perry Homes and its contractors on the Woodridge Village project in Montgomery County. That case involves many of the same issues involved in both the TCEQ report and the City of Plum Grove’s lawsuit against the developer of Colony Ridge. The report does not mention exactly when Double Oak started working for Colony Ridge.

For the full TCEQ report, click here. Caution: large download, 28 megs, 184 pages.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/16/2020

1144 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 393 After 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.

More Delays, Denials, and Victim-Blaming in Elm Grove Lawsuit

Defendants in the Elm Grove flood lawsuit have filed more than 20 new documents with the Harris County District Clerk since mid-July. The big news: The addition of Concourse Development, LLC to the lawsuit has pushed back the trial date from March to September next year. It has also triggered more victim-blaming plus claims and cross-claims among the defendants.


In 2019, runoff from 268 clear-cut acres under development by Perry Homes contributed to flooding in Elm Grove, not once, but twice. Victims sued two subsidiaries of Perry Homes who were developing the property. They also sued several contractors, and LJA, the engineering company.

Screen capture from video taken by Cogdill family during May 7th flood of 2019 shows water streaming out of Woodridge Village into Elm Grove.

In June 2020, lawyers for plaintiffs added Perry Homes and Concourse Development to the lawsuit.

Perry promptly responded, blaming the victims for their own damages.

Perry Homes is the parent company of subsidiaries PSWA and Figure Four Partners, who were originally sued.

Many Elm Grove Families had to be rescued.

Concourse Development bought the property now known as Woodridge Village on 1/12/2018 and sold it to Perry Homes six days later.

Five developers owned the Woodridge Property before Figure Four Partners, LTD, a Perry Homes subsidiary. Concourse owned it for six days before flipping it to Figure Four. Source: Montgomery County Appraisal District.

Concourse is also the developer of Woodridge Forest, immediately west of Woodridge Village. Approximately one year before the purchase and quick sale, Concourse reportedly told Woodridge Forest residents at a community meeting that the Woodridge Village property would never be developed because it was “just too wet.” USGS classified large parts of the area as wetlands and multiple streams converged there.

Where Case Stands Now

The addition of Concourse to the lawsuit prompted multiple requests by Concourse and other defendants to delay the trial again – until September 20, 2021. Concourse said it didn’t have enough time for discovery and preparation. Given that the case was already almost a year old, Concourse claimed it had a lot of catching up to do. In their response to the plaintiffs’ sixth amended petition, Concourse also pointed some fingers at other defendants. One then filed a cross-claim against Concourse (see below).

Concourse Blames Victims and Almost Everyone in Sight

Defendant Concourse Development LLC denied each and every claim in Plaintiff’s latest petition. This is called a General Denial.

Concourse then lists eight pages of defenses. They repeat the phrase “Pleading further, and in the alternative, if such be necessary and subject to the foregoing pleas and without waiving same…” a grand total of twenty times. That means, “If the general denial doesn’t work, we reserve the right to claim X. And if X doesn’t work, we reserve the right to claim Y. Etc.”

More Than 20 Defenses Asserted

With that as a preface, Concourse also pleaded that:

  1. Concourse was not the immediate or sole cause of the flooding and damages.
  2. “Acts, omissions, fault, negligence and other conduct of the Plaintiffs” were the immediate and sole cause, in whole or in part, of the flooding and their damages. (They do not explain why they believe that, though.) Said another way, the victims caused their own damages.
  3. Other defendants caused the damages.
  4. New and independent third parties caused the damages.
  5. Other people caused the damages.
  6. Concourse had no obligation to the victims.
  7. Concourse’s conduct was reasonably prudent.
  8. The flooding was an unavoidable accident.
  9. Plaintiffs failed to mitigate their damages.
  10. Their contract (presumably with Perry) gives them indemnity.
  11. Any payments made by other parties (not a part of the litigation) to Defendants should offset any liability Concourse may have. (Presumably, they’re talking about insurance companies.)
  12. Any award against Concourse must be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to others, including the Plaintiffs themselves, and third parties.
  13. Flooding was caused by an intervening, but unspecified cause.
  14. Plaintiffs’ claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
  15. To the extent that Plaintiffs allege lost wages or loss of earning capacity, recovery should be limited to post-tax earnings or net earnings.
  16. Plaintiffs’ damages resulted from prior or pre-existing conditions over which Concourse had no control and did not cause.
  17. God caused the damages.
  18. Any punitive damages awarded in the case should be reduced in proportion to Plaintiffs’ own negligence.
  19. Plaintiffs’ claims should be barred because Concourse acted with due care and complied with all laws and regulations.
  20. Plaintiffs’ assumed the risk that resulted in their “alleged” damages.
  21. Punitive damages violate the Due Process and Equal Protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US. Constitution and the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
  22. Punitive damages violate Chapter 41 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the Texas Constitution, and the United States Constitution.
  23. Prejudgment interest should be limited under Texas Law.
  24. Plaintiffs have not fulfilled all the conditions necessary to maintain the lawsuit.
  25. The One Satisfaction Rule should govern any awards.

The last point means that a plaintiff should only recover once for a particular injury. It applies when several defendants commit the same act or when multiple defendants commit different acts that result in one injury.

Defendants Now Fighting Among Themselves

If many of those points sound contradictory, they are. But Concourse has covered all its bases.

In #3 above, Concourse pointed the finger of blame at other defendants in the case. Evidently, Double Oak Construction, Inc., one of the other defendants didn’t like that. So…

On 8/6/2020, Double Oak filed a cross-claim against Concourse. Double Oak alleges that Concourse should be held directly liable to plaintiffs for any and ALL damages they suffered. Double Oak also wants a jury to decide Concourse’s percentage of liability.

Why is that? Double Oak alleges that “…the Developer Defendants hired Concourse on May 8, 2019, the day after the extreme weather event on May 7, 2019, to inspect the Development and that Concourse did not advise the Developer Defendants to make any changes to the detention.” Nor, they claim, did Concourse advise Double Oak or the other Contractor Defendants to make any changes to their work after the inspection.

Therefore, Double Oak further alleges, Concourse is liable to Plaintiffs for damages and any award levied against Double Oak.

Double Oak Objects to Concourse Production of Documents

In its response to the Plaintiffs, Concourse also gave “notice to all parties that any and all documents produced during discovery may be used against such parties at any pre-trial proceeding and/or trial … without the necessity of authenticating the document.”

Double Oak objected to this. Double Oak claims it doesn’t know what specific documents Concourse intends to use, therefore Double Oak is handicapped in its defense.

Trying to anticipate every single document produced by any party would cause an undue hardship, claims Double Oak. Double Oak reserved its right to authenticate any and all documents that Concourse produces as part of discovery.

Woodridge MUD Fights Subpoena for Documents

In other news on the case, the Woodridge Municipal Utility District (MUD) is fighting production of documents that have been subpoenaed.

The Woodridge MUD claims that the Plaintiffs’ subpeona is “overly broad and seeks to inquire into matters subject to the attorney-client privilege.” They also claim that some of the requested documents involve matters discussed during executive sessions of the Woodridge MUD board.

The MUD also refuses to produce documents anywhere other than at the offices of its counsel.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/10/2020

1077 Days after 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.

Six TCEQ Investigations Lead to 13 Citations for Woodridge Village Developer and Contractors

Since flooding in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest last year, the TCEQ has completed half a dozen investigations of Woodridge Village with more in the works. Woodridge Village is the troubled Perry Homes development where contractors clearcut 268 acres while installing less than 25% of the required detention capacity.

The TCEQ has repeatedly charged Perry contractors and subsidiaries with stormwater pollution violations and unauthorized discharge of sediment. Below are results of six investigations that led to a total of 13 citations. Together the 449 pages of these investigations indicate a lax attitude toward regulations, repeated failures to comply, poor coordination among vendors, and lack of awareness of responsibilities.

Investigation 1571093 of Figure Four Partners in June 2019

On June 17 and 18, 2019, TCEQ investigators cited Figure Four Partners, LTD for “failure to prevent the unauthorized discharge of sediment-laden water from the construction site which could contribute to pollution in waters of the state of Texas.” (See Investigation 1571093 and attachments.)

Investigators found Figure Four failed to implement and maintain best management practices. They tracked the illegal discharge 2.5 miles down Taylor Gully. Where the stream entered woods, lack of access prevented tracking the discharge further.

TCEQ ordered the operator to install adequate sediment controls to minimize discharges from the site.

Investigation 1579654 of Rebel Contractors in June 2019

This was an investigation of Rebel Contractors, which had responsibility for the southern 80 acres of the site.

The TCEQ report starts by noting that two previous complaints about Rebel Contractors had been referred to Montgomery County for investigation.

In this investigation, TCEQ collected water samples upstream and adjacent to the development that were not impacted. They also collected samples above the outfall from the development and downstream of it that were.

They found that total suspended solids (TSS) in the non-impacted samples ranged from 29 to 45 milligrams/liter. The impacted samples, however, ranged from 245 to 620 milligrams per liter.

Investigators also looked at total dissolved solids (TDS). Non-impacted samples ranged from 128 to 158 milligrams per liter. Impacted samples ranged from 2053 to 2804 milligrams per liter.

Water from and below the site had significantly higher TSS and TDS.

Investigators allege Rebel failed to implement and maintain effective Best Management Practices. They cited Rebel for “failure to prevent the unauthorized discharge of sediment-laden water from the construction site which could contribute to pollution in waters of the state of Texas.” They also cited Rebel for failure to prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. It took Rebel six weeks to prepare and submit the plan to the TCEQ.

(See Investigation 1579654 and attachments.)

Investigation 1604733 of Figure Four Partners in October 2019

On October 25, 2019, investigators returned to the site and found Figure Four had violations similar to June. They ordered Figure Four, once again, to install adequate sediment controls that minimized discharges from the site. (See Investigation 1604733 and attachments.) They ordered Figure Four to install adequate controls that reduced discharges.

Investigation 1579655 of Double Oak Construction in June 2019

Double Oak Construction is responsible for clearing and grubbing on the Woodridge site. In June, TCEQ conducted an investigation during which they collected the previously mentioned water samples. They cited Double Oak for failure to prevent unauthorized discharges of sediment-laden water and failure to prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

(See Investigation 1579655 and attachments.)

They also found that Double Oak could not identify where discharges went. They thought it was Galveston Bay.

By the end of August last year, Double Oak still had not submitted a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

Investigation 1604738 of Rebel Contractors in October 2019

Second verse same as the first. Investigators found elevated levels of suspended and dissolves solids from the site relative to non-impacted areas. TCEQ alleges Rebel failed to implement and maintain Best Management Practices. They also allege discharge of pollutants, i.e., sediment-laden stormwater and failure to post a construction permit.

TCEQ ordered Rebel to control discharges and post a permit. It took Rebel 7 weeks to post the permit.

(See Investigation 1604738 and attachments.)

Investigation 1604741 of D&J Construction in October 2019

TCEQ cited D&J for failure to prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and failure to include required information on their construction site notice.

(See Investigation 1604741 and attachments.)

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/1/2020

886 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 135 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.