Lehigh Cement Co. settled a lawsuit that alleged its Waco, Texas, plant pumped millions of gallons of water from the Trinity Aquifer without approval, reported the Waco Tribune-Herald. The company has agreed to pay attorneys’ fees and to formally apply for the necessary permits.

The Southern Trinity Groundwater Conservation District filed the lawsuit in July, claiming that beginning no later than Dec. 6, 2007, Lehigh Cement began to make groundwater withdrawals without the district’s consent, failed to monitor and report the withdrawals, and failed to pay fees to the district for the water.

According to the lawsuit, the Texas Water Development Board notified the water district in March 2017 that Lehigh had been pumping groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer since before 2007. The board’s records show Lehigh pumped about 57 million gal. in 2007; 36 million, 2008; 37 million, 2009; 56 million, 2011; 46 million, 2012; 46 million, 2013; 16 million, 2014; 49 million, 2015; and 8 million, 2016.

The district charges 3 cents per 1,000 gal. pumped, sometimes 4 cents or more, noted Scooter Radcliffe, general manager of the water district. At the 3-cent rate, Lehigh would owe about $1,700 in groundwater production fees on 57 million gal.

Radcliffe visited the Lehigh plant on March 20. Employees told him the company has a well with a 75-hp motor that produces 147 gal. per min.

While not admitting any wrongdoing, Lehigh will pay the district $11,000 in attorneys’ fees as well as $30,000 to pay an intern provided by Baylor University to assist the district in 2018 and $15,000 for an intern in 2019.

As part of the settlement, Lehigh will also pursue a Non-Historic Use Production Permit to pull water from the aquifer, and if it fails to secure such a license, the company will file an application to plug the well in accordance with district rules. The water district has pledged to “make all reasonable efforts” to assist Lehigh in securing a permit.

The agreement specifies that Lehigh must comply with its payment schedule by Dec. 18, or the water district will take additional action that includes filing a new lawsuit for breach of the agreement.

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