A federal judge has ruled that the statute of limitations bars Shadow Creek Ranch residents from seeking $5 million in damages from Blue Ridge Landfill because the odor was a factor long before the complaints arose.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes’ decision, filed on Dec. 26, hinged on determining at what point the landfill odors constituted a permanent nuisance, which is subject to a two-year limit on injury claims. Based on testimony shared in court, homeowners noticed odors in the area as early as 2007.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the problem arose in 2015, when complaints filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality began to rapidly increase and as the landfill began taking in more trash.
“The plaintiffs argue that the landfill odors did not constitute a nuisance until late 2015 because it got much worse around that time. Doubling the size of the landfill does not necessarily create a nuisance. It does exacerbate the existing one,” Hughes wrote in the decision. “The nuisance existed far before this asserted exacerbation.”
The suit, originally filed in November 2016 by eight Shadow Creek residents, claimed that odors from Blue Ridge Landfill had affected the use and value of the property within a three-mile radius of the facility, which falls just outside Pearland city limits in Fort Bend County.
A previous Community Impact Newspaper study of property values in Shadow Creek Ranch showed that over 1,100 homes had lost value in the past two appraisal periods, according to county appraisal district data.
Requests for comment from Republic Services, which owns the landfill, and attorneys for the plaintiffs, were not returned as of Dec. 28.
A separate suit filed by the city of Pearland against the landfill remains in a Travis County court.