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Whispering Hollow groundwater discussion swells in Buda

By C.J. Vetter

BUDA – The Whispering Hollow subdivision was a hot topic for the Buda City Council last week.

The council received a long-awaited report from the Implementation Committee regarding the subdivision. The situation in the subdivision has been an ongoing issue for numerous years, as water has pooled into a perched aquifer underneath some of the homes within Whispering Hollow. 

A perched aquifer is essentially a swamp that sits above the naturally occurring water table. This occurs when there is an impermeable layer of soil above the main aquifer, but below the surface. This means the perched aquifer can fluctuate rapidly according to surface conditions and cause foundation damage to the structures built above it.

One extreme case of the dangers of building above a perched aquifer is Jimmy Fort’s home. Fort purchased the home in 2008, and began experiencing damage as early as 2011, as the foundation began to rapidly move in response to the aquifer’s shifting level. Water pooled underneath the home and has caused immense property damage.

“The big thing here is, and we’ve got documented proof, this is not something we’ve dealt with before. This is a perched aquifer. That’s what it was from the start, and people knew about it,” Fort said. “To give you an example, every three to four years something major is going to happen to a house in this subdivision. My house cracks, the walls are cracking, I’ve got extensive water under the house, plumbing in the house will not drain, due to the bubbles in the drain pipes, the fence posts are rotting due to the water, yards are soggy, just to name a few.”

After learning of the issue, the city council partnered with Aqua Strategies in 2020 to complete a survey of the area. Using their findings, the city then commissioned a group of stakeholders to discuss possible solutions to the issue. Eventually, after brainstorming and discussing remedies, and then passing them through public use tests, the commission eventually settled on seven solutions with estimated costs.

“As a result, we had 18 homeowners that were interested in participating, and I conducted a process of four monthly meetings. In the first meeting, I went through and reviewed all the options. We discussed the four options that were recommended by the study, and then we just brainstormed and talked about everything under the sun that could possibly solve the problems that the homeowners would want to see solved,” said Angela Kennedy, senior engineer for the city of Buda.

Out of the seven recommendations brought forth, the costs ranged from an estimated $150,000 for a re-routing of the sump pump’s discharge so that it would directly flow into the storm sewer all the way to an installation of a city-owned dewatering infrastructure that could range from an estimated $350,000 to $525,000. 

While no decision has been made, Mayor Lee Urbanovsky said that the sump pump discharge routing might be the solution.

“I think our answer is routing the sump pumps to the discharge directly, so we aren’t just moving water around,” Urbanovsky said. “But, at the same time, we do have the Middle Creek project coming, and I want to see what we can do similar to what we’re doing at Carpenter Hill.”

The city council also thanked Jimmy Fort for his patience in the ongoing ordeal. The decision of which recommendation will be approved will be chosen soon.

“I like the seven, I like the transparency, but the patience Mr. Ford and his family exhibited to this point is beyond what any human should have to deal with in their home. I don’t see that fix in this list, and very rarely would we treat one citizen above one another or get into ‘well you do it over there, you have got to do over here’, but in this particular situation, because it is such a tough challenge, I don’t know what we have to do. But a man is living in a pond. That house should never have been built,” said Matt Smith, council member.

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