EXIDE FRISCO BREAKING NEWS: Exide wants to send potentially contaminated storm water through Frisco’s wastewater system, or directly into Stewart Creek, which feeds the Lake Lewisville Watershed
FRISCO — Every time it rains, thousands of gallons of water gush across the site of the old Exide Technologies battery recycling plant here.
What doesn’t get soaked into the ground picks up lead and other contaminants left behind by decades of activity at the former industrial plant. In the past year alone, the Exide site has collected about 1.79 million gallons of wastewater.
Disposing of that wastewater is part of the latest dispute between the company and the city of Frisco. The two have been at odds in recent years over cleanup of Exide’s land south of Frisco’s historic downtown. Much of the soil is contaminated with lead, cadmium and arsenic. The land is also polluted with chunks of old battery casings and a waste material called slag.
“It’s obvious to me all they’re trying to do is not necessarily clean up what needs to be cleaned up but try to get away from Frisco with as much money in their pocket as they possibly can and not protect the environment and protect the public health,” Frisco city manager George Purefoy said.
In a statement to The Dallas Morning News last week, Exide blamed the problem on the “city’s inexplicable refusal to work in a constructive manner … Exide remains committed to completing the remediation and closing the sale of the land for the benefit of Frisco’s residents.”
Right now, Exide is hauling wastewater, which is sometimes mixed with groundwater, nearly 70 miles away to the Turkey Creek Landfill in Alvarado, according to state regulators. Frisco officials say other facilities closer to Frisco have refused to accept the wastewater because of possible contamination.
Company officials say the city of Frisco is blocking Exide’s efforts to secure a permit so it can send the water through the city’s sewer system. That’s what Exide did for years before closing in 2012. The company says the water quality is better now than when it was in business. And the permit would save on disposal costs, it says.
But city officials say they have no plans to accept that wastewater without more frequent testing. Exide no longer has a facility that qualifies for an industrial user wastewater discharge permit. And the city doesn’t believe the company is entitled to a new permit under the same terms.
As an alternative, Exide has applied for a different permit that would bypass the city sewer system and send the wastewater directly into nearby Stewart Creek. The city also opposes that permit, which is still under review by the state.
“The city has been creating unnecessary obstacles to our efforts to remediate the property, including unexplained and unwarranted delays in approving a permit for necessary wastewater discharges,” Exide said their statement.
But Frisco officials say they learned their lesson in the 1990s when they were forced to shut down a city wastewater treatment plant that had become contaminated with lead and cadmium. A new plant had to be built several miles away.
“Frisco takes every precaution to avoid storm water and groundwater that has been in contact with residual hazardous materials from a closed battery recycling plant,” the city stated in a recent court filing.
Working toward a cleanup
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is overseeing cleanup efforts at Exide’s Frisco property. The company ceased operations five years ago as part of an agreement with the city.
In exchange for closing the plant and cleaning up the contamination, Exide agreed to sell about 170 acres it owns around its operating site to the city. The $45 million land deal won’t go through until the cleanup is done, though.
City officials say their concern centers on protecting Stewart Creek from future contamination. The creek runs through plant property and eventually drains into Lewisville Lake.
On Wednesday, Exide submitted plans to TCEQ detailing how it will clean up the former operating site and keep the hazardous waste contained in place. Those plans will take months to review.
In a July 14 letter to TCEQ, Frisco’s special counsel Kerry Russell sought assurances in writing. He wanted Exide to declare it has no intention of filing for bankruptcy until Frisco’s situation is resolved. And in light of Exide’s environmental liability in other cities, he said, he wanted Exide to dedicate at least $60 million for the cleanup and long-term care of its Frisco site.
TCEQ made no decision on the request. A spokesman issued a statement, saying, “The TCEQ will ensure the facility is remediated in a manner protective of human health and the environment.”
Exide said in its statement that it would to take up the request — and what it calls Russell’s many factual inaccuracies — through “appropriate regulatory authorities.”
“It has become clear that the city is raising these supposed concerns in an attempt to further delay the closing of the land transfer and renegotiate the agreement the City entered into five years ago,” Exide stated.