East Lubbock residents concerned about Leprino Foods future environmental impact

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 11:14 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Leprino Foods is on its way to bringing a large cheese plant and more than 600 jobs to the Lubbock community. Some east Lubbock residents, though, are worried about its environmental impact and what kind of neighbor the facility will be.

Leprino hosted a community meeting Tuesday night to discuss its manufacturing plant being built just outside East Loop 289 on 19th Street. The company did not want cameras in the room for that discussion, so people would not be afraid to ask their questions.

Several questions surrounded the pending permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that would allow Leprino to discharge its wastewater in Dunbar Historical Lake at Mae Simmons Park.

Leprino says the water the company will be discarding into the lake is stream quality and will not affect the existing uses of the water at Dunbar.

Some east Lubbock residents still have questions, though. They created an organization about six months ago in an attempt to keep additional industrial facilities out of east Lubbock: the STOP organization. It stands for “stop the oppression of our people.” President Lennis Fareed says it is an environmental justice organization.

“We got enough odor over here, we got the stockyard, we got the water treatment, the cotton, the trains, and all this is making us sick,” Sonya Fair, the treasurer for STOP said.

Fareed says the residents in east Lubbock have to deal with smells and sounds people in other parts of Lubbock do not have to. When it comes to the water Leprino hopes to discard in Dunbar Lake, residents want to make sure it will not be contaminated.

“What my question is, if you can recycle it for it to go in the lake, why can’t you recycle it to keep making cheese?” Fair said.

An environmental employee with Leprino says the plant will recycle water and reuse it in the facility where it can, but to fully treat the water for consumption in its products is not something she foresees. She says the treatment process and tight regulations do not make that feasible. She also says Leprino will be putting more treated water back out into the community that it is going to bring into the facility.

City of Lubbock representatives say what Leprino proposes to do is a process the City already does from its North West Water Reclamation Plant and the South Plant. They also note it is a highly regulated process and ‘stream quality’ water.

TCEQ has already given preliminary approval for the permit, saying the existing water quality uses of Dunbar Lake will not be impaired by the discarding of wastewater by Leprino.

While it is on its way to approval, east Lubbock residents, like one great-great grandmother, say they do not want their neighborhoods to be overlooked.

“I’m not planning on going anywhere, and if Leprino thinks that they can just come in and do as they wish, then here I am. Start with me,” Marlene White said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is hosting a public meeting to discuss this permit with Leprino. It is scheduled for Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at the American Windmill Museum on Canyon Lake Drive.

Fareed says the STOP organization helped bring Leprino into Lubbock for the initial community meeting Tuesday night.

“Because of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality say you better talk to these people, their main goal here is to distract us from having a second meeting with the TCEQ,” he said.

Leprino employees say the company has these conversations with every community it moves into.

Other conversation in the meeting regarded the several hundred jobs Leprino is bringing in. East Lubbock residents want to make sure Leprino is looking at graduating students from Estacado High School and older residents from the area to fill them.

Leprino says it has already had some discussion with officials at Estacado, and plans to further that discussion to make sure graduating seniors know what opportunities are available.

Employees with Leprino were willing to speak with KCBD Newschannel 11 after the community meeting ended, but it concluded at a time too late to meet deadline for this story.