Tag Archive for: TCEQ investigation

TCEQ Finds Nothing Wrong With Preserve At Woodridge Construction

A TCEQ investigation found nothing wrong with construction practices at the Preserve at Woodridge despite photographic evidence.

On April 23, 2022, I received multiple complaints about silty stormwater in Bens Branch. I confirmed discoloration in the water and followed it upstream. The source appeared to be the Preserve at Woodridge on Woodridge Parkway opposite the new St. Martha church. Photos confirmed that contractors were:

  • Pumping the contents of their silty detention pond into a tributary of Bens Branch.
  • Piling dirt on neighboring property.
  • Not using silt fence along their southern boundary.
  • Not posting permits.

I then filed a complaint with the TCEQ. They investigated on June 21, 2022, almost two months later. And found nothing wrong.

Today, August 3, 2022, I received this letter confirming they found nothing wrong.

Letter from TCEQ. For a high-res PDF, click here.

Caught on Camera

My complaint was based on these photos (among others).

silty stormwater discharge
Stormwater discharge into Bens Branch from Preserve at Woodridge Forest.
preserve at Woodridge
Note pile of sediment in front of hose (bottom center).
silt from Preserve at Woodridge
Silty stormwater had migrated more than two miles down Bens Branch past Tree Lane.

I guess there was nothing wrong. Message received, TCEQ.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/3/2022

1800 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Mysterious Black Spots in RV Resort Detention Pond Contained Oil, Grease

Black spots in the detention pond at the Laurel Springs RV resort at 1355 LAUREL SPRINGS LANE near Kingwood contained measurable oil and grease concentrations.

TCEQ’s Second Investigation of Site

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) received multiple complaints about construction practices at the RV Resort going back to January. The first investigation found sediment discharges stretching approximately 450 feet onto neighboring property.

On March 7, 2022, the TCEQ investigated the site again in response to complaints about shiny black pools on the floor of the same detention pond that discharged the silt into the County’s Edgewater Park.

Mysterious black spots in Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Pond
Mysterious black spots in Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Pond. Photo taken on 3/05/22.

The investigator noticed several pools of water with dark colors. Some pools had a sheen on top and had bubbles. He used a stick to estimate the depth of the pools and determined that they were about a foot deep.

One pool appeared to leaking into the pond’s standing water, however, the site was not discharging water into the San Jacinto at the time of the investigation so no permit violations could be charged.

Mysterious black spots in Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Pond
Another photo on 3/5/22 showed contractors covering up the black spots. The TCEQ investigation took place 3 days later.

Contractors had worked to cover up the black spots for weeks.

TCEQ confirmed the allegation that the black substance was seeping from the ground. However, samples did not have sufficient concentrations to determine their exact origin. The conclusion stated, “Observations on-site did not indicate that the dark substance was petroleum based even though there was a measurable oil and grease concentration.”

A construction worker claimed earlier that the black goo was “decaying mulch.” However, the word mulch appears nowhere in the final TCEQ report.

Timing is Everything

It’s a shame that bulldozers covered the most concentrated pools before TCEQ investigators arrived. The week after the TCEQ investigation, the black substance re-emerged with a vengeance. See below.

Mysterious black spots in Laurel Springs RV Resort Detention Pond
Photo taken on 3/14, one week after TCEQ investigation. “They’re baaaa-aaaack.”

After this incident, contractors erected a privacy fence around the pond. They also threatened prosecution of anyone taking photos.

For the full text of the TCEQ report including close up photos, click here.

To file a complaint with the TCEQ about a construction project, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/29/2022

1704 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.

TCEQ Issues Notice of Enforcement to Laurel Springs RV Resort

After an unannounced investigation of the Laurel Springs RV Resort construction site on February 2, 2022, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a Notice of Enforcement (NOE) Letter to the contractor, Higbie Ventures of Texas, Inc. The TCEQ investigation found Higbie:

  • Failed to maintain Best Management Practices in effective operation condition
  • Had not maintained the construction site entrance
  • Did not protect stormwater inlets
  • Damaged erosion controls
  • Improperly installed erosion controls
  • Did not install erosion controls as prescribed in the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan along the southern and western perimeters
  • Let sediment accumulations travel offsite unimpeded onto neighboring property for approximately 158 yards
  • Trenched the southern berm of its detention pond, letting stormwater escape onto neighboring property, a non-compliant discharge
  • Violated requirements of their Construction General Permit
  • Failed to remove sediment accumulations often enough to minimize further negative effect

The investigator felt the non-compliant discharge in late January warranted enforcement action. The TCEQ then issued a Notice of Enforcement Letter (NOE) to “facilitate” compliance.

64-Page Report Brims With Photos Showing Violations

The 64-page TCEQ report meticulously documents the complaints with time-stamped photographs.

The TCEQ investigator, Kyle Linville, required documentation showing the contractor had remedied all violations by February 7. But on February 14, Linville noted that several violations remained outstanding, including failure to:

  • Maintain Best Management Practices in effective operating condition
  • Install sediment controls on the southern boundary of the site
  • Remove sediment accumulations often enough to minimize further negative effects.

Linville’s observations largely match mine and those of nearby residents who have communicated with me re: issues at the controversial construction site. Strangely, a City of Houston investigation found no problem, triggering two more investigations, but the City has not yet released the results of those.

Contractor Apparently Still Not Fully in Compliance

Since the TCEQ issued its notice of enforcement letter, most but not all of the violations have been corrected. However, Higbie still has not installed silt fencing along the western perimeter. And when I went by there today, trucks had once again turned Laurel Springs Lane into a muddy mess.

Photo taken on 2/2/22 from TCEQ report showing erosion of southern wall of detention pond.
Sediment eroded into Edgewater Park for approximately 158 yards. Another photo from TCEQ report.
More sediment farther into park. Another photo from TCEQ report.
Note lack of silt fencing along western perimeter (right), which had been mentioned in TCEQ complaint dated 2/2/22. Photo taken 3/24/22, six weeks after compliance deadline.

Contractor Claims Re: Unauthorized Discharge

The contractor admitted that he discharged stormwater into Edgewater Park without authorization. However, he claimed that it was necessary to begin installing pumps that would discharge stormwater into the Lakewood Cove Storm Sewer System. The contractor claimed that standing water in the detention pond had infiltrated the soil in the pond wall. That made the pond wall so unstable that heavy equipment could not operate safely on the wall, said the contractor, in his response to the TCEQ.

However, photos taken on the day of the trenching, 1/29/22, show heavy equipment already operating on the wall and the pump housing already partially installed.

Photo taken 1/29/22 shows contractor draining pond as heavy equipment operates elsewhere on pond wall.

On page 54 of the report, the contractor claims he dug the trench on 1/30/22, not 1/29.

He also admits that he placed 8″ pipe in the wall, but claims he removed it “the next day” on “1/31/21.” That would have been 10 months before the site was even cleared. But assuming he meant 1/31/22, the claim doesn’t match what I photographed that day. I photographed the contractor covering up pipe, not removing it. See below.

One photo from a sequence taken on 1/31/2022 that shows contractor pulling dirt into trench and spreading it over pipes.

Is he claiming that he filled in the whole trench only to redig it on the same day and remove the pipe? That would have been amazingly inefficient. However, it would help explain some of the contractor’s failures. In the last 20 years, eight of Higbie’s 13 entities in Texas have gone out of business. He lost six of the eight to tax forfeitures.

Trust But Verify

Mr. Linville produced an excellent and thorough report of his investigation. But I hope he explores some of Higbie’s claims further without just taking Higbie’s word that he complied. As auditors say, “Trust but verify.” Did the contractor really remove the pipe? Did he install invisible silt fence on the western perimeter? Why is Higbie still pumping water out of the pond with portable pumps almost two months after installing the housing for permanent pumps.

We should never forget how excess sedimentation contributed to the flooding of thousands of homes along the West Fork during Harvey.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/26/22

1670 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.