Levelland industrial facilities to abate red flour beetles or face daily fines

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 11:07 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Three industrial facilities in Levelland have 10 days to remove product infested with red flour beetles. After that, the City will start handing out daily fines.

The investigation into the pests has taken place over the last few weeks, after residents of the Kaufmann Addition have reported for two summers the tiny beetles cover their floors, climb into their pantries, fall from their attics and crawl on their skin in bed.

Citizens at Monday night’s city council meeting say they are glad the City has taken action to find the source. While the threat of fines may help in the short-term, they are more worried about keeping this from ever happening again. They also want help from the City, as a repayment for everything they have already endured.

“What about the problem that already existed? What about everything that the residents have gone through? Also for future measures, how are we going to prevent this from happening next year, five years down the line?” Claudia Maldonado, who has been leading the charge, said.

Testing results show red flour beetles are present at three facilities in the industrial rail park in Levelland. Those include Titan Lansing, a frac sand processing company, and ADM Southern Cotton Oil.

Levelland Emergency Management Coordinator Cole Kirkland says the primary source is the Penny Newman granary, which processes almond hulls.

The facilities have 10 days to abate the nuisance. If they do not, they face up to a $2,000 fine every day the nuisance remains after the abatement period.

Two weeks ago, Kirkland criticized the City for not taking action the year before, when complaints came in about the red flour beetles. Maldonado says she wants the City to take more accountability for what has happened.

City Attorney Matt Wade says, to his knowledge, the Penny Newman facility was not offered any tax breaks or incentives to bring its business to Levelland. He also says as a government, the City cannot trample on a company’s rights without a law supporting it.

Kirkland says officials with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the USDA have said the issue is out of their hands. Since almond hulls are not a regulated commodity, agency officials told him it will fall on locals to mitigate it.

“It’s not an illegal product that was brought in. And we have these rules regarding nuisances because we can’t predict what will and won’t happen as far as legal products that come in,” Wade said.

Even so, the residents of the Kaufmann Addition want the City to take accountability for the money they have spent to exterminate their homes and the hit on their property values.

“To get them out of our home, we’re going to have to pull the insulation out of our attic and have that put all back. You know how expensive that is? And same thing with our walls. We’re going to have to pull the insulation out of our walls,” one resident at the meeting said.

Wade says there are legal courses of action for residents to get that restitution, but the City cannot take those on behalf of private property owners.

“Now that we have described it as a nuisance, we are taking what action we have. And I get that it is not enough. I get that it is not satisfactory as a City. But what I’m suggesting is, is that we’re not the only ones that can do something about it,” Wade said.

In the future, Kirkland says the city will be discussing ways it can create ordinances or regulations to prevent this from happening again.

“As far as commodity storage, cottonseed or any of the like, regulating how they store it, how long they store it, if things are stored on the ground. Because this is, any commodity that you store and allow to get wet and be on the ground surface will harbor all kinds of pests,” Kirkland said.

As the abatement takes place, Kirkland says the bug problem will get worse before it gets better.

Kirkland says the City is also looking into spraying pesticides similar to how the it does for mosquitos.

The emergency management coordinator says Titan Lansing is expected to have everything abated by Tuesday. The council said ADM is trucking out five loads at a time

Meanwhile, Kirkland says Penny Newman has not expressed its plan to abate the beetles, yet.