City of Buda is preparing a civil lawsuit against GrubTubs


Compost farm owner says he's been trying to work with the city on a solution

BUDA, Texas (KXAN) — Buda’s city attorney is working on a civil lawsuit against GrubTubs.

The company’s Buda facility has been plagued by odor complaints from neighbors for months.

The facility takes unused foods from restaurants and turns them into food for livestock for area farmers and ranchers.

The Buda City Council recently authorized the City Attorney’s Office to try to resolve odors coming from the town’s GrubTubs facility.

A spokesperson for the city says a civil lawsuit could be filed in 30 to 45 days, if it is not settled out of court.  

GrubTubs owner Robert Oliver didn’t want to speak on camera Thursday, but did show KXAN’s Tahera Rahman around his farm.

Chicken coop on GrubTubs’ Buda farm. Owner Robert Oliver says the waste he collects from restaurants is either used as chicken feed, composted in a pile or fed to grubs. (KXAN/Tahera Rahman)

He says he’s already spent $30,000 – $40,000 on improvements to mitigate the odor through things like covering compost piles with mulch and improving water filtration systems.

But Oliver says the city keeps slamming him with fines and lawsuits instead of working with him towards a solution.

Restaurant owners put food waste into these containers. GrubTubs then schedules pickups. Owner Robert Oliver says they help reduce landfill waste by up to 75%. (KXAN/Tahera Rahman)

MORE: City of Buda takes company to court for odor violations

According to the city, its Code Enforcement Division has fielded 292 resident complaints and the City’s Municipal Court has received 44 resident complaints alleging criminal mischief.

“I regret moving here because of GrubTubs,” says Sue Nance.

She lives down the block from the facility and has filed numerous complaints over the past eight months.

“It’s just a really offensive, like, rotten food, spoiled milk, it’s not just a light odor,” Nance says.

Her neighbor, Mark Lakes, says he’s noticed the compost farm’s smell for even longer– a year and a half.

Lakes says it’s not just the smell that’s gotten worse.

“I put a fly bag out, a new one out, two days ago. It’s almost filled up,” he says.

Lakes is an Austin Police Officer and says these aren’t normal flies; they have red heads.

“From my work background, those are the kind of flies you see from a deceased person or human waste. Not the normal flies that you see at a normal barbecue place,” Lakes says.

At an Oct. 15 meeting, however, Buda authorized the the City Attorney to file a civil lawsuit, seeking civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day, “to stop GrubTubs from interfering with the neighboring property owner’s rights to use their property free of nuisance.”

The City Attorney also received authorization to court order GrubTubs to halt its activities that violate the city’s odor ordinance.

The City of Buda says it’s also received odor complaints that were made to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

There are already criminal cases against GrubTubs in municipal court. Two jury trials for those are set for November.

Nance says she’s glad to see the city acting on neighbors’ complaints but she doesn’t necessarily want GrubTubs driven out.

“I’m not going to say totally, ‘You need to leave,’ but figure it out,” she says.

Others, like Lakes, only see one solution.

“Move to another location, he says.

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