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UPDATE: Concerns hamper cleanup at Exide’s closed lead smelter in Frisco

This story below was published Wednesday, May 8, 2013, in the Dallas Morning News:

Concerns hamper cleanup at closed Exide plant in Frisco

By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH

Decontamination of buildings that once housed the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant is complete. But concerns remain as cleanup continues on the land surrounding the plant, which closed last year as part of an agreement with the city of Frisco.

Retreatment of the hazardous waste found in the landfill is on hold after a test in March revealed problems. The landfill was not permitted to handle hazardous waste.

In addition, a new report commissioned by Frisco looks at the history of the land and identifies multiple areas of concern, some of which had not been made public before.

Exide has scheduled an open house Thursday (May 9, 2013) to update the public on its progress.

The plant stopped operating Nov. 30. Under the agreement between Frisco and Exide, the city will purchase about 170 acres that Exide owns as buffer around its plant for $45 million. Exide will retain the 90 acres used for its operations, including the landfills. Contaminated areas will be cleaned up.

About 75 percent of the buildings set for demolition have been taken down, spokeswoman Susan Jaramillo said.

Exide consultants will be available Thursday night to answer questions in five areas: decontamination and demolition of the plant; remediation of the landfill; air monitoring; investigation and remediation of the land to be purchased by the city; and investigation and remediation of the plant property.

Staff from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will also be there to answer questions.

TCEQ confirmed Wednesday that landfill cleanup has been suspended while procedures are reviewed. The agency collected 35 samples from a pilot project in March. One sample exceeded both the standard for lead and the toxicity characteristic level for lead, and two samples exceeded the standard for cadmium, the agency said.

“TCEQ is currently reviewing Exide’s sample results and protocols as well as the results of the pilot project as a whole,” agency spokesman Terry Clawson said.

Jaramillo said the landfill retreatment is a high priority for the company and it wants the work to be done “to the satisfaction of the regulatory agencies.” She said Exide believes the retreatment of the material has been a success.

A more detailed review of contamination on the property is outlined in Frisco’s environmental site assessment, which was released last week. The report takes a thorough look at the land the city plans to buy and offers an extensive history of hazards, regulatory actions and past cleanups. Concerns range from the existing landfill to the older, closed landfill sites to high levels of lead and cadmium found in the soil.

“It pretty well confirmed what we previously knew about the site because obviously we have a long, long history with this site,” said Kerry Russell, Frisco’s consultant on environmental issues. “There have been no real surprises.”

The city set aside $1 million for cleanup of the land it intends to buy. Frisco City Manager George Purefoy said there are no indications based on the new report that the cost will exceed that.

The report identified the existence of crushed battery chips for the first time on the agricultural land across the street from the plant. The battery chips, which are often a sign of contamination, were also found on multiple other areas of Exide’s property.

Of particular concern to the city is Stewart Creek, which runs through the plant property and has been the subject of several cleanups. The city report noted that the creek channel was rerouted when the original buildings were built at the plant.

“The fact that there was a channel there — it’s like a super highway for any contamination beneath that site to go directly to the creek and the water table,” said Jim Schermbeck with the environmental group Downwinders at Risk.

The older landfills are also getting a closer look. The south disposal area was used from 1970 to 1974 to dispose of rubber chips and a waste material from the plant known as slag. The north disposal area also was used as a city landfill from 1974 to 1978. It contains not only household trash and construction debris but also rubber chips and slag. A third area, known as the slag landfill, was used between 1978 and 1996.

Inspections in recent years found erosion, exposed battery chips and in some cases, high levels of lead and cadmium in the nearby soil on these landfills. In addition, a berm near one disposal area was once used for shooting practice by Frisco police and contains slag and battery chips.

“The city wants to be absolutely sure that any residual contamination left in place does not ultimately contaminate the city property or Stewart Creek,” Russell said.

AT A GLANCE

Community meeting

What: Community meeting hosted by Exide Technologies

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Depot at the Frisco Heritage Center, 6499 Page St.

Format: Open house with experts to answer questions

To learn more: www.exidefriscoclosure.com

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