By Patrick George
Updated Sep 27, 2018 at 1:52 AM
Hays County will receive a $425,000 settlement as part of a lawsuit against development and excavation companies accused of polluting Hamilton Pool.
Hays County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the terms, nearly wrapping up a $3.5 million suit against Rodman Excavation Inc., Coldwater Development Ltd. and engineer Aaron Googins. Hays and Travis counties and landowners downstream from the Ranches at Hamilton Pool subdivision filed suit in 2007, saying construction runoff had traveled down Hamilton Creek and clouded the pool.
The case was heard in the 98th District Court in Travis County but was settled before a ruling. The developers are expected to sign the Hays County settlement.
In March 2009, Travis County commissioners accepted their portion of the settlement, $2.1 million , which the county will use to clean the pool and creek. Hays County will use its $425,000 to pay legal fees and expenses, officials said.
The State of Texas will receive $500,000, and three downstream landowners will receive settlements ranging from $95,000 to $190,000.
“I think it’s a fair and successful settlement,” Hays County Assistant District Attorney Mark Kennedy said. “I hope it serves as a reminder to the actors in our community that we need to be more responsible in developing sensitive properties in the Hill Country.”
David Chamberlain, a lawyer for Coldwater Development Ltd., said much of the sediment that ran into the creek was the result of unforeseen heavy rains during construction.
“It’s a very unfortunate accident,” he said, adding that the settlement is fair.
In May 2007, officials noticed that a large amount of sediment had washed into the creek. Travis County officials blamed the subdivision, 29 home sites on about 1,221 acres .
The suit was filed Oct. 30, 2007, and claimed the development “disturbed the land without effective pollution control measures.” The lawsuit also accused developers of not fixing the problems and violating the Texas Water Code.
A report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said improper construction methods resulted in a “serious impact to the environment.” The commission ordered an $85,000 fine against the developer.
Hays County Commissioner Karen Ford , whose Northwest Hays County precinct includes part of the development, said there is still construction sediment in the creek bed and that heavy rains could wash more sediment into Hamilton Pool. She praised the settlement and said the reimbursement of legal fees means the suit didn’t cost taxpayers money.