Floodwaters still haven't receded, two weeks after Tropical Storm Hermine

FORT WORTH -- Mary Kelleher imagined her home becoming a place where children could visit and delight in her farm animals in her sprawling backyard.

That fantasy no longer seems possible, she said recently, as she stared out at the pools of stagnant water dotting her back yard.

"This used to be my dream house," Kelleher said. "It's not anymore. It's a nightmare."

Her property on Randol Mill Road, east of East Loop 820, flooded like others in the area two weeks ago during Tropical Storm Hermine.

It wasn't the first time her back yard had flooded. But Kelleher said the water rose much faster this time. She had to scramble to move chickens and sheep to higher ground. More than a dozen animals died.

"Sheep drowned. Llamas drowned. My ducks are dying," Kelleher said.

During previous floods, the water quickly subsided, she said. This time, most of it has lingered, several feet deep in some places as recently as Tuesday afternoon.

"Right now, I'm left with stagnant water with my dead animals floating in it," Kelleher said, fighting back tears.

Fort Worth officials are investigating Kelleher's flooding situation.

"The cause is most likely from the heavy rains," city spokesman Jason Lamers said. "It may be this is the first big event out there since she's been there."

But Kelleher believes that her land won't drain properly because of a 30-inch natural gas pipeline and metering station installed this year by Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners. The pipeline runs from just north of Arlington to a network of interstate pipelines near Justin.

Kelleher believes that the metering station blocked the flood water from draining off her property.

Fort Worth officials confirmed that Enterprise began building the metering station before applying for the proper permit for building a structure in a flood plain.

"Part of getting a flood-plain permit is having an engineer to look at the drainage and everything," Lamers said.

City officials contacted the company, which then applied for the right permit, Lamers said. The city ultimately approved the construction.

"Our initial thought is that the metering station is not the cause of all that water," Lamers said. "The city is going to look at that a little more and see if there is anything else that can be a problem."

Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey agreed that the pipeline isn't an issue.

"Throughout this project, Enterprise has worked closely with numerous state and local agencies to comply with all appropriate regulatory requirements and obtain the necessary permits," Rainey said. "There is no evidence to suggest that the company's activities or facilities are responsible for drainage issues on nearby property."

Kelleher has been worried about the pipeline for months. In June, she said, she noticed that the company's workers found trash while digging a trench for the pipeline. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated and confirmed that the pipeline had been installed on a former landfill and that Enterprise should have taken proper precautions. The agency is still reviewing the situation, spokesman Terry Clawson said.

In July, Kelleher saw water shoot out of the pipeline like a geyser. She reported the incident to the Texas Railroad Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to a report from OSHA, Enterprise said the discharge was a routine process to purge moisture out of the pipes.

Kelleher remains skeptical and nervous. She said she's not convinced that the pipeline was installed safely.

Since the flood, her surviving animals can no longer access most of her land. A zoo of donkeys, goats, llamas, chickens and piglets now spends much of its time in her front yard. She said she doesn't know how long she can live this way.

"I worked so hard to get this place and make it special," Kelleher said. "It's starting to feel difficult for me to feel safe in my own home."

Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695