Arlington dam update: Why the state says homeowners face civil penalties if it isn’t fixed

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has sent letters to property owners who live around Prestonwood Lake warning them they must fix or remove the dam.

Robert Blake, the last president of the Prestonwood Estates West Homeowners Association which had gone inactive three years ago, said residents who live around the lake will meet Wednesday with the intention of hiring an attorney.

“I really don’t have a firm answer about what we can do,” Blake said.

Last week, the city of Arlington warned the dam was in imminent danger and issued an emergency order allowing the city take action on the private property to ease the danger. City officials stressed no homes were in danger and there no properties downstream at risk.

On Friday, the city of Arlington was able to breach the damaged portion of the dam, allowing water to flow out of the 3.5-acre lake.

The city’s action removed the immediate threat but still left some homeowners on the hook. Blake said he believes as many as 27 property owners around the lake received letters.

The Nov. 1 TCEQ letter warned of “civil action if there is no due diligence following documentation of the impaired condition by TCEQ Dam Safety.”

TCEQ spokesman Brian McGovern said the damaged structure is considered a low hazard dam, meaning inspections are infrequent.

Even though the threat of a complete failure has lessened with water flowing out of the lake, McGovern said property owners are still responsible for removing or fixing the dam. TCEQ spells out guidelines for removing a dam on its website.

“The collective property owners now responsible should immediately retain an engineer (licensed in Texas with Dam Safety experience) and a contractor to initiate emergency measures to prevent a failure of the spillway and/or embankment,” wrote Kyle Hodges of TCEQ’s Dam Safety Section.

“Permanent repairs or removal of the dam should follow as soon as possible with the assistance of an engineer and approval of construction plans (or removal plans) by TCEQ Dam Safety in accordance with applicable portions of Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Title 30 Chapter 299,” the letter said.

TCEQ’s Dam Safety Program monitors both public and private dams in Texas. but there are exceptions.

Dams with a maximum capacity of less than 500-acre feet, classified as low or significant hazard, located in a county of less than 350,000 and not within a city limits are exempt.

On Monday Arlington Water Utilities plugged a damaged 6-inch sewer line just downstream from the dam and used pumps to divert the flow. The city is still working on a long-term fix. The spill was estimated at 300 gallons.

“As required, Arlington has reported the sanitary sewer spill to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” city spokeswoman Susan Schrock said.. “City environmental inspectors are also on-site to determine if any remediation measures are required in the area where the sanitary sewer main break occurred.”

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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