DMN: Texas Campaign for the Environment, Downwinders at Risk unite to work for more upgrades to cut lead from Exide
Below is a copy of the story written by Dallas Morning News staff writer Valerie Wigglesworth on July 25. And here is a copy of the news release she linked to in her July 26 Frisco Morning Roundup, where the groups refer to the Exide lead smelter as “another Midlothian”.
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
Dallas Morning News Staff Writer
Published 25 July 2011 10:45 PM
Two environmental groups have joined forces in calling for more improvements beyond those proposed for the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Frisco.
Monday’s announcement by Downwinders at Risk and the Texas Campaign for the Environment came just days before a public hearing on the state’s proposal for upgrades to reduce lead emissions from the plant.
“If we can raise enough citizen awareness, we can get Exide to take further steps to make this truly a world-class facility as promised,” said Jeff Jacoby, director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment’s area office, which works statewide on recycling issues. “The company isn’t doing that now, it says it doesn’t intend to do that, the state isn’t making them do that and the [Frisco City] Council buried their heads in the sand. Someone has to step up.”
Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said he welcomes the groups’ involvement but said their characterization of the city is unfair. Maso said the proposal is between Exide and state regulators, not the city.
“The city has not given up anything,” said Maso, who reiterated the City Council’s pledge last year that the Exide site would be the most environmentally advanced plant in the country or the city would work to shut it down.
The plant opened in 1964 when Frisco was a small farming community. But dozens of businesses, schools and homes have sprouted up near the plant as the city’s population has surged past 120,000.
Today, a 1.3-square-mile area around the plant is one of 16 places in the nation that doesn’t meet the new air-quality standard for lead, which is 10 times more stringent than the previous standard.
The proposed plan by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality call for enclosing many of the plant’s operations and improving pollution controls. The more than $20 million in upgrades are expected to reduce total lead emissions to about 640 pounds a year. That’s down from the 1.09 tons of lead emitted last year.
Exide officials say the planned upgrades at the Frisco plant go beyond what’s needed to bring the plant into compliance.
“The control technologies … are the most effective pollution controls for this facility, not inferior to those at our California facility,” Exide spokeswoman Susan Jaramillo said. “Regardless of whether it is California or Texas, the new [air-quality standard] is an extremely rigid air standard. All of our secondary lead smelters will be brought into compliance with the new much more rigid [standard] with the specific technologies identified by each site and local requirements.”
But the environmental groups say the changes aren’t enough. They say Exide’s battery recycling plant in California “has controls that are seven to 10 times more effective at removing lead.”
“With their actions, both Exide and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are telling Frisco residents that they and their children are not deserving of the best, most protective technology out there,” said Jim Shermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk. “We shouldn’t have to settle for second-best protection when it comes to something as toxic as lead.”
A growing body of research shows that no amount of lead is safe. The toxic metal has been linked to lowered IQs, behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children. In adults, lead is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.
The environmental groups are canvassing Frisco neighborhoods closest to the plant in hopes of garnering more support. Jacoby said they have collected more than 800 citizen letters that are being mailed to Frisco officials.
Exide’s continued operations are turning Frisco into “another Midlothian,” said Shermbeck, whose group battled for more than two decades to halt the burning of hazardous wastes in cement kilns in that Ellis County city.
“It’s deathly to attracting business and young families and so on if you have a reputation of having a toxic pollution problem in your town,” he said.