BREAKING NEWS: TCEQ takes formal enforcement action against Frisco Exide plant because of dangerously high levels of lead, cadmium found during May/June inspections
From May 6, 2011 to June 29, 2011, the TCEQ DFW Region office conducted four separate investigations at the Frisco Exide Techonologies lead battery recycling plant to evaluate compliance with requirements for Industrial Solid Waste and Municipal Hazardous Waste. During the inspections, TCEQ officials found dangerously high levels of lead and cadmium – enough to qualify the facility for Superfund site status, according to one expert. In its Sept. 12, formal Notice of Enforcement for Compliance Evaluation Investigation letter to Exide, the TCEQ listed 12 alleged violations and six concerns, and it noted that additional violations may be forthcoming.
A copy of Dallas Morning News reporter Valerie Wigglesworth’s story about the TCEQ’s formal enforcement action is at the bottom of this posting. You also can download and read complete copies of the related TCEQ documents below.
Among the numerous alleged violations and concerns – similar to concerns about soil and water contamination raised by the EPA in the Administration Order it levied against Exide in August – the recent TCEQ inspections found evidence of toxic discharges that raised concerns about adverse affects on downstream waters, such as Lake Lewisville, and the stream beds of Stewart Creek. Below is taken from the TCEQ investigation report:
“During the investigation, TCEQ DFW Region staff observed liquid discharging through cracks and seeps in the barrier wall into the environment (Stewart Creek embankment). The cracks and seeps in the barrier wall were observed on the Stewart Creek (south) side of the barrier wall and south of the Slag Treatment building. The analytical sample results of the soil collected at this location detected elevated concetrations of lead (Total = 3,560 mg/kg; TCLP = 2.86 mg/L).
TCEQ DFW Region staff also observed a discharge running down the barrier wall beneath the stormwater pipe that discharged to the stormwater pond. The liquids appeared to be water generated during the street sweeping activities and stormwater. According to the analytical sample results, the soil collected at this location exhibited the toxicity characteristic for lead (Total = 39,800 mg/kg; TCLP =1 27 mg/L) and cadmium (Total = 894; TCLP = 12.2 mg/L).
The discharges are occuring along the banks of Stewart Creek which runs through the facility. These discharges have the potential to adversely affect the downstream waters and stream beds of Stewart Creek.”
You can download and read complete copies of the:
Get a copy of the 1,300-page EPA Exide inspection report here
You can see photos from the EPA Exide inspection report of the poorly maintained Frisco Exide lead smelter by clicking here, or just go to the flickr gallery on the right-hand section of this page.
State releases list of violations, concerns at Frisco plant
By Valerie Wigglesworth, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 13, 2011, 3:52 p.m.
State regulators inspecting the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Frisco found dangerously high levels of lead and cadmium – enough, according to one expert, to qualify for Superfund site status.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality inspected the plant in May and June and issued a notice of enforcement on Monday. The state lists 12 alleged violations and six concerns that range from the unauthorized discharge of hazardous wastes to problems with the plant’s on-site landfills and lapses in paperwork and employee training.
“Due to the apparent seriousness of the alleged violations, formal enforcement action has been initiated, and additional violations may be cited upon further review,” the TCEQ’s waste section manager, Samuel Barrett, wrote in a letter to Exide.
Exide officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The state’s enforcement action is the latest blow to the Frisco plant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found similar problems during multiple inspections of the plant in 2009 and 2010. Last month, the federal agency ordered Exide to do extensive testing of soils, groundwater and a creek to identify contamination from its operations.
Exide is also trying to reduce its lead emissions to comply with a new federal air-quality standard for lead, which increased tenfold in 2008 because of concerns over the toxic metal. An area surrounding the plant near downtown Frisco is one of only 16 in the nation that doesn’t meet that air-quality standard.
The TCEQ’s enforcement action detailed multiple problems at the plant. One building, for example, was missing a door for several years. The vertical plastic strips in its place didn’t close completely, allowing contaminants to escape.
Another building had significant deterioration that allowed water to pool on the floor and get tracked elsewhere by workers and equipment.
A waste material called slag that was treated and buried in a nonhazardous landfill was found to have toxic levels of lead and cadmium. And significant erosion on a separate, closed landfill left battery chips and slag exposed.
According to the TCEQ, soil samples taken from multiple sites at the plant showed high lead levels, with one sample measuring 47,100 parts per million. Other soil samples registered 39,700 parts per million, 39,800 parts per million and 3,560 parts per million. The action level for lead in soils on industrial property is 1,000 parts per million.
“Those are just very high numbers,” said Howard Mielke, an international expert on lead in soils and a research professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. “That would qualify for a Superfund site … no question.”
Mielke said he didn’t find lead levels anywhere close to that in the soil testing he did in yards and public rights of way near the plant. But the problem, he said, is that the plant is located in the middle of Frisco and surrounded by homes, businesses and schools.
“Whatever way the wind blows, especially during droughts, this can become a very serious problem,” he said.
Lead is toxic in very small amounts. In children, it can cause behavior problems, lowered IQ scores and brain damage. In adults, lead has been shown to increase the risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney problems and strokes.
There is no known safe level of lead.
Cadmium levels at the Exide plant were also high, with one area measuring 1,090 parts per million. Because of cadmium’s ability to leach into the groundwater, the action level for this heavy metal is 1.5 parts per million.