Mail Call

Woodwind Lakes Edition

Online readers respond to “Odd Man Out,” by Todd Spivak, April 12.

Old news: I am a member of this community and feel that you have made the good people of this neighborhood look bad and the bad people of this neighborhood look like environmental saints. There are people in this neighborhood that have caused and instigated more confrontations, and you glorify them. This matter was in the news a year ago. I feel that there are better stories than this to write. You should do more research about the personalities involved before writing this and maybe not listen to someone who has an agenda. Thank you.


Woodwind Lakes

Comment by
Michael Sorrentino
April 16, 2007

Say it to my face: How dare you call me a “bad” person, Mr. Sorrentino. I think I did a good deed by helping people become informed and aware of their surroundings. I came from a good Italian-American family and was born and raised in downtown Houston. I have worked myself through college and graduate school. I have been a substitute teacher, college professor, process server, private investigator and single mother. It is not in my blood to lie or deceive. If you want to call me a bad person, why don't you leave Paul alone and say it to my face? Better yet, why don't you make me an offer on my house so we “bad people” can hurry up and be on our merry little way? It probably won't change much — you will still be living on contamination. I don't take kindly to being bullied, threatened, harassed or intimidated into submission. Have a nice and healthy life, sir.

Comment by Miklyn Provenzano
April 17, 2007

Foolish: What's astounding to me is that anyone would WANT to live there now. How foolish they seem to be to risk the health of their families by staying. Sure, it's a good location. So were the Navajo hogans in the desert that were built on and near uranium mines. Tragically, all the poor folks who stayed are mostly dead and dying now, and their children's children all have birth defects. But don't let anyone mess with those property values...

Comment by Jay R
April 17, 2007

Stupid-ass people: Absolutely incredible that A HOUSE would make you trade your children and your health. Regardless of what the man stirred up, there are FACTS and pictures that show that this neighborhood is not safe. LET ME BE A PART OF THE LEGAL ACTION, because I will most definitely not let ANYONE off the hook. A bunch of stupid-ass people who paid a fuck-load of money for nothing — wait until you get your health-care bills.

Comment by Angie
April 17, 2007

Paging Erin Brockovich: How dare you, Mr. Sorrentino! Sounds to me like you are somehow mixed up in this whole mess. Maybe you work for Chevron, Amerada Hess or the homebuilder! You know, you really have big balls coming down on the property owners in this subdivision. Or maybe you would secretly like to kill all the members of your family. How insensitive. You are a piece of work, mister! Don't you have anything better to do? Or do you like going around bullying people? The facts are the facts here. There is more than enough evidence to prove that these people are living in a very toxic neighborhood. And the oil companies, homebuilders, etc. are to BLAME...PERIOD! NOW they need to pay up, and I hope that everyone in this community gets $1 million-plus for all the pain and suffering that they have endured. They can't sell their homes; they can't move. That is not right. And also the homeowners have been threatened? My gosh, it sounds to me like there is a major, major conspiracy here and a major cover-up. Maybe we should call Erin Brockovich. I hope to HELL everyone goes down, down, down who is responsible for this. Good day, sir, and I hope to hell you can drink the water out of YOUR sink.

Comment by Michelle S
April 17, 2007

Wake up and join the suit: Bless you, Mr. Spivak, for writing this article. It was time all of this was brought out in the open. Failure to disclose is illegal and is punishable. Why have the developers and builders been allowed to line their pockets at the expense of these innocent homeowners? What I really do not understand is why so many of the homeowners are in denial. Do they want to die a tragic and unnecessary death for the sake of the almighty dollar? They need to wake up and join those in the suit, then maybe the developer would realize his money does not protect him. Denial is no excuse for failure to disclose, and one day those in denial might want to sell. Do they think they are immune from being sued for disclosure violations? They need to think again, because their pockets are probably not as deep as those of the developers. As a licensee in Texas, I would never knowingly list anything that was undisclosed, because I do not want to go to jail.  

Comment by L Jones
April 17, 2007

No health hazards: I am a member of the community and want to state that I have not been embroiled in this battle. I simply wanted to post the findings of a January 2007 report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services: It shows that there are no public health hazards due to contamination.

I can't believe how ugly this situation has gotten.

Comment by D
April 18, 2007

Get physical: Mr. Sorrento, perhaps it is you who need to do more research. The facts do speak for themselves, and the fact is there is residue spewing from under the grounds of that subdivision that I'm sure is very harmful to your health. If I were you, I'd get physicals very regularly...

Comment by Liz
April 18, 2007

Read more carefully: “D” writes, “It shows that there are no public health hazards due to contamination.” No — no, it doesn't say that, actually. It states they “don't expect contamination” and that “there is no apparent health risk” and that it is “an indeterminate public health hazard.” And I quote.

You should, perhaps, read something so important a bit more carefully.

Comment by Jay R
April 18, 2007

Still baffled: I am the Paul Anderson in the article. Mr. Sorrentino omits that the “matter in the news a year ago” was a puff piece by the Houston Comical (in the Cy-Fair This Week section, no less) that said there were no problems.

“D” omits that the January 2007 report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry did not take into account the findings of Trinity Environmental or the high number of animal deaths and illnesses (dogs, my beloved Labrador in particular). The agency report looks at statistical increases in cancer and diseases and only counts people who live there. There has not been enough time to see any statistical cancer increases in any reports. But, “D,” what about all the people who have moved from the subdivision? The report says the ground surface is safe but evades stating that there are threats from IN the ground. “D,” you have probably not read the sworn testimony of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of March 21, 2007, in which a resident of WWL was recently told by the TCEQ to “be careful with your kids [playing and digging in the yard] until we figure this out.”

Just two weeks ago, the Homeowners Association sponsored an Easter egg hunt on the “biomound” — the 5,000-cubic-yard mound of dirt that's so contaminated that the Railroad Commission forbids homes to be built on top of it. So it was excavated and piled in the community park. This is an area that remains, to this day, under formal investigation by the Texas Railroad Commission.

Cheryl and I are grateful we could sell our home and leave after our house was on the market for 15 months. We have long ago decided not to harbor any hard feelings or bitterness — it's a waste of time. One profound gift of the experience is that I have come to love my wife dearly for what she has had to endure for my “crusade.” We remain amazed at how many otherwise intelligent people, even close “friends,” have stuck their heads up their asses about this. But then again, maybe sticking your head up your ass is a lot safer than sticking it in the ground around Woodwind Lakes.

We remain baffled to this day how it is that people could be more concerned about their property values than the health of their children. The answer is probably found somewhere in people's superficial desire to belong to anything, even if it is cluster f*@#^*! at bunko or the “women's club.” Saul Bellow said it best: “An awful lot of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion runs deep.”

Comment by Paul Anderson
April 19, 2007

Eyes opened: I would like to thank the Houston Press, its staff and especially Todd Spivak for having the courage and foresight to print the Woodwind Lakes article. The situation in Woodwind Lakes represents the best and worst in basic human character.  

I purchased a home in what I hoped and dreamed would be a quiet and peaceful environment. Having a friend install a below-ground pool and strike an abandoned pipeline, and then watching government and business entities responsible for investigating and resolving environmental threats and issues cover up the event, was disturbing.

The situation in Woodwind Lakes represents the worst possible actions and reactions of all of the responsible parties. Homebuilders can request that a potential buyer sign away legal rights when purchasing a home, government agencies can and will mislead an entire neighborhood, and law firms will conspire with the homeowners' association to segregate and further victimize anyone with the courage to ask questions or exercise their individual state and federal constitutional rights in a court of law.

I personally will never again purchase a home where a homeowners' association or a MUD District has any power over an individual. I will never trust or respect state or county agencies or the personnel who work for such agencies that have the power to become inhibitors of law rather than the enforcers of law. I will never again sign away my legal rights to a fair civil trial, for a mandated arbitration clause. These were the real eye-openers.

Comment by Bernie Milligan
April 19, 2007

From the mail bag:

The hill from hell: Last Saturday, neighborhood children were invited back on the biomound again to scrounge for plastic eggs filled with candy.

Todd Spivak's remarkable and troubling article begged several conclusions. It is saddening to read quotes from so many people in utter denial. Since kids were once again having an Easter frolic on the “hill from hell,” it would seem that Children's Protective Services needs to subpoena every adult in the subdivision for video or snapshots of said frolic, then work on identifying and investigating those parents who showed such reckless disregard for their children, as well as to turn over the names of those parents and ALL members of the Neighborhood Association to the District Attorney for consideration of possible crimes as well.

I know, don't hold my breath.

Name withheld by request

Selfish: Thanks for writing about the Woodwind Lakes subdivision that was built on an oil and gas field. I have been a volunteer for a consumer organization dealing with builder complaints for several years. I see again and again what can happen when one person in a development has the guts to stand up to a builder who's deceived buyers: Either the neighbors band together with that person and fight the builder, they sit idly by expecting to reap monetary rewards for one person's efforts or, worst of all, they vilify the guy/gal who's refusing to be quiet about being ripped off. One elderly couple in New Mexico was threatened by their neighbors when their new home was uninhabitable. It's deplorable that anyone would be so selfish that they'd attempt to intimidate neighbors and deny them their right to compensation for a wrong. These people are no better than the builder, and they are perpetuating this whole problem in the building industry by letting builders get away with it. Furthermore, if these neighbors think they can sell without disclosure, I would hope their buyers can recover damages from the deceitful sellers.

Cindy Schnackel
Norman, Oklahoma


Craig Malisow's April 19 feature “The Choking Game” incorrectly reported that the Marine Military Academy expelled student Levi Draher after his accident. Draher's mother says the Academy did not expel Levi, but that he was not accepted by two other private schools after the accident.

The Houston Press regrets the error.

Reporting Recognition
Two Houston Press staffers do well in a two-state journalism contest

The Fort Worth Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has announced that Houston Press staff writer Keith Plocek received second and third place honors in its two-state First Amendment contest.

Plocek placed second in the “Reporting on Open Government” category for “Needling the Haystack,” in which he drove 1,683 miles in Harris and surrounding counties to test school districts' observance of open record laws and found a wide range of non-compliance.

He placed third in the “Defending the Disadvantaged” category for “Short Changed,” which exposed the exploitation of illegal immigrants by contractors in the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Staff writer Todd Spivak also was recognized in the contest, placing third in the “Use of Public Records: Investigative” category for his story “Run Over By Metro,” which uncovered deaths and injuries caused by Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority.  

The SPJ contest was open to papers in Texas and Oklahoma.

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