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Landowners seek to intervene in suit

June 26, 2019 - 00:00
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AUSTIN—Thirty-one landowners along Skull Creek and near Inland Environmental and Remediation filed a petition to intervene in the ongoing lawsuit by the state and Lower Colorado River Authority against the company relating to conditions at its site and pollution of Skull Creek.

According to the petition to intervene, the landowners, “have a justiciable interest in this lawsuit, which, among other things, seeks to define the level of clean-up and other remediation obligations of Defendants.”

The petition alleges the landowners, “have been damaged by the offensive odor of the creek and its discoloration.”

The lawsuit notes that the potential intervenors have had livestock die from drinking water from the creek, and lost recreational use of their land.

“Upon information and belief, at least several of their wells have also been contaminated as the water coming from them has a foul odor,” the petition continues.

“We just want the environment returned to a clean and healthy status, free from all contamination, for this community to enjoy,” said Carmen L. Laureiro, one of the impacted landowners.

L.J. Ripple, another area landowner, said his land has been in his family since 1954, and that it has been used for fishing, swimming, camping, hunting, and more.

“Because of the pollution, my grandchildren only went to the property once this year, stayed for less than one hour, and have declined to return,” Ripple said.

“This creek has great fishing for bass, perch and catfish, but I tried twice this year, in April and may, and had no luck at all. The water still has a hydrocarbon smell,” Ripple said.

Ripple also said he usually lets his neighbors graze his land for three months, but declined to do so this year due to the “foul water” in Skull Creek.

“I want to be able to use my property to let my grandchildren hunt ducks and fish, but worry the creek may still be hazardous to health. I want my land back,” Ripple said.

The lawsuit was filed by Austin attorneys Gordon McHaney and John W. Thomas. McHaney has a history with Inland, having previously represented a family who sued the company in 2012 after a fatality car accident near the facility’s entrance was allegedly caused by slick road conditions outside Inland’s plant, which court documents alleged was a result of leakage off trucks entering the facility.

“David Polston and Inland Environmental have a history of disregarding the health and safety of Colorado County residents,” said McHaney. “Despite prior warnings that the hydrocarbon-based sludge spilled on Highway 71 from trucks using Inland Environmental’s plant entrance was causing a hazard for area motorists Inland and Mr. Polston did nothing to correct the dangerous condition they created,” McHaney continued.

“Nothing until the double fatality accident in January 2012 occurred outside the plant entrance due to the slick sludge on the roadway. It took the deaths of two good people to get Mr. Polston and Inland to clean up the roadway. They need to clean up their act again before someone else gets seriously hurt,” he continued.

“It is impressive to see these individuals have been able to organize themselves into an effective group to combat Inland’s abuses. At the same time, it is terribly sad because they should have been able to go home and relax after a hard day’s work, and not have to suffer from polluted water and air,” said John W. Thomas.

For background stories and The Citizen’s extensive investigative work on Skull Creek and Inland Environmental, visit