LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - Nearly a decade after it burned for a second time and was ordered to be shut down, Lubbock city and county leaders believe this may be the year when an abandoned recycling facility is cleaned up.
“The City and the County have long sought assistance in fixing this problem,” Mayor Dan Pope said. “In fact, this is the third [legislative] session in a row that this has been the top legislative priority for the City of Lubbock. This has not today nor has it ever been a City of Lubbock or a Lubbock County problem but it’s one that affects us and our community.”
The property sits across Interstate 27 from the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. According to officials, while not permitted, it operated as a recycling facility under an exemption from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In 2002 and again in 2009 it caught fire and smoldered or rekindled for up to a month later.
Following the second fire, the TCEQ convinced a judge to shut down the facility and ordered the owner, Larry Webb, to clean it up.
Since then, Lubbock leaders say nothing has been done to remove the mounds of concrete, tires, shingles and more. Webb has also died, putting ownership of the property to his estate. According to Pope, there are numerous tax liens on the property.
The City and County in March signed a joint resolution to ask the state to finally fund remediation efforts at a price tag of $11.7 million. Joined in those efforts by Lubbock area legislators, officials say the TCEQ has provided a solution.
“We are going to continue to need help as we work through the last third of the legislative session to get this finalized,” Mayor Pope said. “The dollars that we seek, and I think this is important, these dollars are not general revenue dollars from the State, rather they are dollars that are held in a particular fund that is comprised of tipping fees.”
Those fees, collected at landfill operations, go to the Solid Waste Disposal Fee Account 5000. It’s in turn dedicated for local and regional solid waste projects.
Pope said the request for $11.7 million comes from an 18-month-old bid by a private cleanup company. If the funds are approved through the State budgetary process, Pope said the city and county would have 36 months to clean up the property.
“One of the reasons it costs so much to clean it up is that the materials out here, you can’t just dig a big hole and bury them there,” Pope said. “We can’t just haul them to our C&D landfill. They have to be hauled to a specific kind of landfill to meet TCEQ requirements.”
At a press conference Thursday, Mayor Pope, Councilman Juan Chadis, Councilman Randy Christian and Commissioner Jason Corley expressed gratitude to legislators and TCEQ for getting the process this far.
“Every year the TCEQ spends millions of dollars to remediate areas just like this across the state,” Corley said. “We’d like to see them spend some of those funds here in Lubbock to help us solve this problem that we have and help us take care of this eye sore.”
The 86th Legislative Session ends in May. If the funds are approved, Pope expects the City and County to move quickly to contract with a company to clean the property.
The land is expected to soon go up for a tax auction in which a governmental or private entity could acquire it.