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Homeowners Sue Costello Engineering Firm Over Harvey Flood Damage

Hundreds of homeowners in Levee Improvement District 19 filed suit

Multiple lawsuits have now been filed against an engineering firm over Harvey-related flooding.

More than 400 homeowners from the Riverstone Development in Fort Bend County filed suit against Costello, Inc., saying the firm’s flawed design for their levee district caused their homes to flood.

Alleged failures in design include the removal of an upstream levee, which lawyers said led to rapid flooding at houses in five subdivisions.

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.

“When we made it out of the neighborhood, driving on the median, it became very clear passing into LID 15 that something was not right. 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. 

Costello, Inc. designed the neighborhood’s levees and pumping systems. The firm’s founder and former president is Steve Costello, the city’s current “flood czar”. Efforts to reach Costello, Inc. for comment were unsuccessful.

In February, Steve Costello fielded questions about development at a Rice University conference. There he admitted his firm designed a subdivision behind Barker Reservoir.

“Why did development occur behind reservoirs?”, said Costello, “The agencies that were approving it, whether it’s the city or the county, whatever county, were using the 100-year ponding level, which is what we would do in any type of event. Is that the right thing? Well, post-Harvey? No. Was that what it was in the past? Yes, that’s the way we did it.”

Costello added, “We’re not going to be able to buy out everybody there but we are going to have to figure out a way to find protection for them against some more extreme events.” 

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