PUBLIC HEARING TODAY! DMN: Two Scientists to testify that TCEQ plan lacking in protection of community health from Exide lead emissions
(This is a copy of an article written by Dallas Morning News staff writer, Valerie Wigglesworth)
Two scientists find fault with efforts to reduce lead emissions from Frisco plant
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
Published 27 July 2011 10:22 PM
Two scientists say they plan to testify in Frisco on Thursday night that the state’s plan to reduce lead emissions from the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant might not be enough to protect the health of the community.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is holding a hearing to collect comments on its proposals to bring an area around the plant near downtown Frisco into compliance with the new air quality standard for lead. The proposal is scheduled for a final vote in December. A 1.3-square-mile area around the plant is one of 16 in the country that exceed the standard, which was strengthened tenfold because of the growing research that shows lead causes health problems at very low levels.
Exide Technologies officials have said they plan to spend about $20 million on improvements, from enclosing operations to installing better pollution controls. They say that will bring the Frisco facility into compliance by the state’s deadline of November 2012. A company spokeswoman could not be reached Wednesday.
Jess McAngus said he thinks that the numbers in the proposal are off and that the company won’t be able to meet the new standard as predicted.
McAngus, a co-founder of Spirit Environmental in Houston and an expert on air quality issues, said he was hired by a local resident to review the state’s plan.
That plan relies on models that predict what the lead emissions will be once certain controls are in place. McAngus said the state’s modeling is flawed because it gives credit for capturing all of the so-called fugitive emissions, the lead particles that escape into the environment through open doorways or on vehicles and don’t go through any filtration device.
“There’s no way they will get 100 percent control efficiency,” said McAngus, who said a more realistic model would use a 90 percent to 99 percent capture rate.
He also noted that the state’s modeling assumes all of the lead in the air is coming from Exide. But most modeling factors in a small amount of lead from other sources.
In revising the state’s model to account for those differences, McAngus said, his calculations show Exide won’t be able to meet the new air quality standard.
“If this were to play out a couple years down the road, there would be violations,” he said.
“They need to get it right the first time.”
Howard Mielke, a research professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, said he also plans to testify based on his extensive work on lead in soils. His landmark research decades ago prompted the federal government to ban leaded gasoline.
Mielke said there’s a strong link between the amount of lead in the soil and the blood-lead levels in children. When soil lead levels go up, so does children’s exposure.
Part of the problem, he said, is that the U.S. relies on outdated standards for protection.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s trigger for excessive lead levels in residential soil is 400 parts per million. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers levels of 10 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to be elevated.
But Mielke said children start seeing blood-lead levels rise when they are exposed to soils with lead levels of as little as 20 parts per million. And learning disabilities start for children with blood lead levels as low as 2.
Mielke said he plans to share the results from his limited testing of Frisco soils at Thursday’s meeting, but he said more soil studies are needed.
He said trying to use blood testing to determine if there’s a lead problem in the community is backward thinking.
“We can’t use our children as canaries,” he said. “We can deal with the environment to reduce the amount of lead. … Primary prevention is critical.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday at Frisco City Hall. Comments will be accepted on the proposed agreed order and state implementation plan to reduce lead emissions at the Exide Technologies plant. TCEQ staff will be available to discuss the proposal beginning at 5 p.m.
Written comments will be accepted through Aug. 8. Comments will be accepted electronically at http://www5.tceq.texas.gov/rules/ecomments. Comments may be mailed to Holly Brightwell, MC 206, Air Quality Division, Chief Engineer’s Office, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087, or faxed to 512-239-5687 or 512-239-5687 . All comments pertaining to the Collin County Attainment Demonstration for the 2008 Lead NAAQS should reference Project No. 2011-001-SIP-NR. All comments pertaining to the Agreed Order between the TCEQ and Exide Technologies should reference Project No. 2011-024-MIS-NR.