Cleburne, Johnson County and Harrington Environmental Services officials won’t learn visiting District Judge Jerry Ray’s decision for several days.
Ray, following closing arguments on Wednesday, said he would need time to consider the evidence and make a decision. Ray said he will likely inform the parties of his decision via letter or email.
Lawyers for Cleburne and Johnson County hope to see Harrington shut down until a court case filed in the 18th District Court alleging nuisance against the company can be heard.
Attorneys for the city and county were back in the 18th District Court on Tuesday arguing that Harrington has failed to abide by the terms of temporary injunction issued by the same court in November.
That injunction allowed Harrington to continue their business, but required them to operate within the guidelines of their Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued permit. Harrington, officials argue, has on several occasions failed to do so since the injunction.
Harrington officials denied any wrongdoing and argued that closure of their facility could spell ecological disaster for Johnson County.
The Joshua company applied for and received a permit from the TCEQ in 2016 to apply domestic septage (sewer and water collected from septic tanks) to a tract the company owns at 7501 CR 1009.
Several residents living near the property and several city and county officials protested the application during public meetings held by TCEQ at the time, but to no avail.
Several since, including the city and county, have either accused the company of illegal dumping and/or posing a threat to Cleburne’s main water source, Lake Pat Cleburne.
James Parker, an attorney representing Cleburne, on Tuesday asked Ray to both modify the November injunction against Harrington and to find the company in contempt of the same injunction.
Parker argued that Harrington, since the November injunction, has committed 30 violations namely by dumping septage on their land during times of rain and/or standing water. Doing so, Parker said, is prohibited by the guidelines of their TCEQ permit.
Several residents living on neighboring pieces of property testified Tuesday stating that they’ve witnessed instances of trucks dumping on Harrington’s property during rain and/or standing water events. Several of the witnesses supplied photos and/or video of allegedly stuck trucks being pulled by tractors on Harrington property.
Parker further argued that Harrington documentation of truckload activity on the site proves that the company allowed dumping during times of rain or standing water.
Steve Dickman, an attorney representing Harrington, balked at such claims.
“There’s not one shred of evidence that Harrington’s activities have hurt Lake Pat Cleburne,” Dickman said. “The city’s submitted no water quality tests to prove different.”
The trucks seen in the videos were not stuck in mud, Dickman said, rather their tires were spinning in a soft spot or on wet clay.”
Thomas Harrington, owner of the company, agreed. Harrington argued that what looked like standing water or wet spots was actually the recently applied septage, which is liquid, from the trucks. Dickman also referred to weather records, which showed no precipitation on the days the truck videos were shot.
“Harrington has been in business in Johnson County for 30 years,” Dickman said. “They started their first site, the Southpark site, at the request of Johnson County to help quell roadside dumping and instances of people dumping untreated septage in bar ditches, near water sources and other places.
“They’re not going to be dumping in the rain. For one thing, it would be impossible to operate those big trucks out there in the fields when the ground is saturated. They’ve also never been fined by TCEQ and TCEQ holds them up as a well-run company.”
Parker, on cross examination of Harrington, countered by referring to Harrington records of trucks dumping allegedly during times of rain or saturated ground conditions.
Parker asked Ray to enjoin Harrington from applying septage until dispensation of the nuisance lawsuit.
Harrington, while testifying on the stand, said doing so would cause disposal fees to increase and roll the clock of Johnson County back 30 years and lead to illegal dumping.
“I love Johnson County,” Harrington said. “I don’t want to see what I call midnight haulers dumping this stuff in bar ditches, waterways and Lake Pat. Another thing you’ll see if prices go up is people going to Home Depot to buy pumps and pumping their untreated waste into bar ditches or the back of their property, which can be a ecological disaster.”
Another resident living near the Harrington property, Bridget Denison, testified that she received an angry, threatening call from Harrington after she agreed to allow surveillance cameras on her property to monitor Harrington’s.
Harrington testified that he didn’t threaten Denison, but merely told her he considered what she was doing an “extreme invasion of privacy” against him.
A separate case concerning Harrington remains ongoing in Austin.
Last year Cleburne and county officials challenged TCEQ’s issuance of the permit in an Austin court.
The judge sided with Cleburne and the county but TCEQ appealed the ruling and the case remains ongoing.
Cleburne requested but did not receive an injunction against Harrington while that case remains on appeal.