A lawsuit filed by hundreds of residents of the master-planned Riverstone community in Sugar Land that was flooded during Hurricane Harvey claims that engineering firm, Costello Inc., acted negligently in designing its stormwater management system.
At the time that the stormwater work was done, the company was owned by former City Councilman Steve Costello, who was appointed Houston’s “flood czar” in 2016 by Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Riverstone is within the boundary of Levee Improvement District 19, where Costello designed the stormwater protections created to protect the community from the Brazos River overflowing into its almost 2,000 homes. But when Harvey hit last August, nearly a third of the homes there flooded.
Because Costello failed to use “ordinary care in the operation, design, and maintenance of its pump, levee, and drainage systems” as well as in the design of management system, the lawsuit claims, it “illustrates not only an attitude of unconscious indifferences for the rights, safety and welfare of others, but also shows (Costello’s) actual and subjective awareness of the dangers of such conduct.”
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys in four law firms, seeks damages for repairs, lost property value, lost income and emotional distress, among other flood-related costs.
Costello, Inc. did not respond to requests for comment. The firm also did much of the engineering for Grand Lakes, a subdivision within the Barker Reservoir’s flood pool that was swamped during Harvey.
Costello, who has said he divested from the firm in 2015 when he ran for Houston mayor, said Thursday afternoon he was unaware of the lawsuit and declined comment.
Simpson told The Texas Monitor that the flooding ruined the first floor of many of the homes, and the homeowners have not yet been able to repair those first floors.
“These families, they have their life earnings in these homes,” he said. “And many of these homes they’re staying in, they’re staying on the second floor. You go from house to house and you shed a tear at every house.”
Amanda Junker, a plaintiff in the case, said after fleeing her home last August she was surprised to see a stark difference in water levels nearby.
“We were inundated with water in our neighborhood and just on the other side of the street everything seemed to be perfectly fine,” Junker said.
“LIDs” or Levee Improvement Districts, are designed to protect developments from flooding. Junker and her family live in LID 19, a levee district that experienced rapid flooding during Hurricane Harvey. Many were forced to evacuate their homes, which contained up to two feet of water.
Simpson said he expects the suit to go to trial.
See all of the coverage of the lawsuit here:
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.