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MEDIA ROUND-UP – Exide Technologies closes Frisco lead smelter

Below is a round-up of news stories regarding the  Nov. 30 closing of the Exide Techologies lead smelter in Frisco:

November 30, 2012

Dallas Morning News

Exide Technologies shuts down Frisco plant today

By Valerie Wigglesworth
Exide Technologies will shut down by 11 a.m. today, ending nearly a half century of operations in Frisco.

The battery recycling plant is closing as part of an agreement with the city of Frisco, which will buy about 180 acres of vacant land owned by Exide in exchange for the plant’s closure.

The company, which recycled more than five million used vehicle batteries a year, laid off as many as 122 employees. About two dozen employees will remain on site to do environmental work and cleanup.

Company spokeswoman Susan Jaramillo said a private event will be held today for Frisco employees “to recognize their hard work and dedication to Exide.”

The company came under scrutiny several years ago because its lead emissions exceeded the federal air-quality standard, which was strengthened tenfold in 2008.

The company had planned $20 million in improvements, but the bulk of the upgrades, such as enclosing all of the buildings under negative pressure, was never completed.

The air monitor readings around the plant still exceed the standard. October’s value, which averages readings from the months of August, September and October, was .31 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, more than double the standard of 0.15 set to protect people’s health.

An area around the plant is one of 21 places in the country that do not meet the federal air-quality standard for lead. That nonattainment designation will remain, despite the plant’s closure, until three years worth of data shows compliance with the new standard.

State and federal inspections of the plant in recent years also revealed contamination on the ground around the plant. Testing and enforcement actions related to those findings are ongoing.

Cleanup on the Exide property is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

Frisco’s Economic Development Corporation and Community Development Corporation will pay a combined $45 million for the buffer land surrounding the plant operations. Exide will retain ownership of the remaining property. The EDC land, which is along the Dallas North Tollway, is expected to be sold and developed as office space while the CDC’s portion could be used for municipal courts, parks and recreation buildings or fire training facilities.

“It’s a chapter that closes in our history,” Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said of the plant’s closure. “It brings more opportunities for the city to continue towards buildout.”

The closure by no means ends the efforts of Frisco Unleaded, a citizens group formed last year over concerns about the plant’s pollution.

“The vast majority of people in Frisco think this is it, the plant is closing, and that’s that,” said Colette McCadden, a member of Frisco Unleaded who started looking at environmental issues related to Exide several years ago. “I don’t think that they understand that there’s still significant efforts that need to be utilized to enforce the maximum cleanup possible.”

State and federal regulators have set standards for the company to follow as buildings are demolished, contamination is contained and landfills are capped. Exide will also have to maintain good housekeeping practices to control lead emissions during the cleanup, officials say.

 

CBS 11

Frisco’s Exide Plant Set to Officially Close

 

Frisco Star-Enterprise

So long, Exide: Frisco lead-acid battery recycling plant closes after 48 years

The Exide Technologies lead-acid battery recycling plant has been a contentious issue for Frisco residents in recent years. Photo by Kelsey Kruzich.

By Anthony Tosie, atosie@starlocalnews.com

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 11:31 AM CST
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at 9:20 a.m. on Nov. 30. It has been updated to clarify Get the Lead out of Frisco’s mission.

Today Exide Technologies is closing its lead-acid battery recycling plant in Frisco after spending nearly half a century in the city.

The news is both good and bad — depending on who’s discussing the matter, the closure could mean great things or dire consequences for the city. But these are the facts: with the plant’s closure, 120 people have lost their jobs, a large portion of whom are Frisco residents; at the same time, however, the closure will halt the contamination of land where the plant is located.

Frisco Mayor J.C. Grant, Grand National Batteries representative Robert C. Littlefield and Frisco Industrial Committee Chairman Erwin G. Pink break ground on what is now the Exide plant on April 25, 1964. File art

According to data released by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Exide exceeded federal standards for lead emission during a majority of months within the past year.

Humble beginnings

When a ground breaking for the Gould National Batteries plant was held on April 25, 1964, the new business addition was widely considered to be an economic boon for the city.

A large ceremony was held to celebrate the plant’s opening, with Frisco’s mayor, J.C. Grant, and the chairman of the Frisco Industrial Committee, Erwin G. Pink, taking part in a ceremonial first shovel dig with a representative from Gould National Batteries.

“Enthusiasm and community pride were quite evident in Frisco Saturday when ground was broken for a new oxide manufacturing plant,” a Lewisville Leader article shortly after the plant’s groundbreaking said. “… a large gathering of Frisco residents as well as Collin County dignitaries and visiting guests [were present at the ceremony].”

The plant initially employed about 15 people, although it slowly expanded and employed more area residents.

At the time, Frisco was a small town that lacked the business development of the modern incarnation of the rapidly growing city.

Frisco wasn’t the only North Texas town benefitting from the plant’s opening, either. A Lake Dallas construction company was a contractor for the construction of the plant.

For the most part, the first few decades of the plant’s operation were smooth. There was little concern about its operations, and the city appeared happy with its economic contributions.

Lead contamination

It wasn’t until Frisco started growing that the plant’s emissions truly became a concern for residents.

The plant began a history of exceeding federal containment standards — including both air quality and lead contamination — in the early 1990s. These standards violations went largely unnoticed for years, however — well after Exide bought the plant from Gould National Batteries in 2000.

Two groups, Frisco Unleaded and Get the Lead Out of Frisco, were founded in 2011 in an attempt to get the plant to comply with federal standards or shut down.

Get the Lead Out of Frisco’s founding followed a bill by state Sen. Florence Shapiro requiring Exide to comply with health standards and conduct assessments of environmental contamination. After that bill was introduced, the group gathered signatures from Frisco residents who supported the bill.

At a public meeting on April 13, 2011, with Exide officials at the Embassy Suites in Frisco, Val Maso, a co-founder of Get the Lead Out of Frisco, said the plant was ruining the city’s family atmosphere.

“We care about our children and we care about our families,” she said at the meeting. “No amount of lead emission is acceptable to me as a mother … The only thing that is going to make us happy is for you to be gone. I don’t get why you don’t think it is in your best interests to move out of town … Lead is a neurotoxin and we don’t want poison in our dirt and in our air.”

That meeting was called by Exide officials, who said with new technology upgrades, the plant would meet the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards by November 2012.

Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said the fact that Exide continued to miss environmental standards was a major factor in the city’s desire to see the plant closed.

“Frankly, we’re meeting the needs and requests of the majority of our residents,” he said. “Many residents thought that use of the land was incompatible with Frisco’s growth, especially in that area of the city.”

When the city saw the opportunity to reach an agreement with Exide regarding the plant’s closure, Maso said he and the city council made sure to look over all aspects of the agreement.

One of those aspects was job losses — something the mayor said the city took very seriously.

“One of the challenging outcomes with the closing of the plant is job losses,” he said. “The entire council is concerned about those. As a city, we’ve offered all our services to help mitigate that. The first thing I did when we came to an agreement with Exide was to work with the Texas Workforce Commission, and Exide has worked closely with them to help find some jobs for them.”

On Nov. 7, the Frisco Economic Development Corporation, Texas Workforce Commission and Frisco Chamber of Commerce held a job fair in coordination with the EDC and another workforce solutions group that helped several Exide employees looking for work.

About 12 to 15 businesses were at that event, said Tony Felker, president and CEO of the chamber.

“I’ve talked to several of those companies, and they did have discussions with Exide employees, so at the very least there’s potential for them there,” he said.

Job losses

While Lead-Free Frisco and many residents are overjoyed — to put it mildly — with Exide’s closure, other residents aren’t so happy.

Al Brewster, a longtime Frisco resident, said the loss of jobs in the city is unacceptable. Brewster spent 10 years as a vice president for Northrop Corporation, an experience that he said gives him a different perspective on the Exide situation.

“During that time, the company was expanding and building new plants in places other than California, which treated business terribly,” Brewster said. “I can assure you that the attitude of local government regarding business was a high priority on the selection list. With Frisco’s recent record, we would have rated it an ‘F’ in that area — don’t believe anyone who tells you there is no business impact in this decision.”

Mayor Maso said the city understands Exide’s importance in its growth, but that the growth was actually one of the reasons the plant was no longer a good fit for Frisco.

“We can’t forget that the plant was here since the early ’60s and was really the first major employer here in Frisco,” he said. “To Exide’s credit, they supported and helped with many community organizations in the city, such as the Frisco Education Foundation, and some of their employees lived here and were engaged in the community. So on one hand, yes, there’s a history there that needs to be recognized and honored, but as far as the current operations, the time was right for them to close this plant.”

When the city announced its agreement to acquire much of the land around the plant with Exide, Brewster said he was shocked. The city was agreeing to get rid of a company that employed 134 area residents.

“I went through a series of emotions regarding the closure,” he said. “I was disgusted and disappointed with our elected officials, and I felt sorrow for all the Exide employees.”

One of the reasons Brewster was upset with the city’s decision was because Exide made attempts to rectify any state and federal violations, he said.

Last year, the company announced it would spend $20 million to improve the plant in an effort to reduce emissions.

“Have they not willingly been in the process of not only trying to upgrade the facilities, but also carry out decontamination work?” Brewster asked. “And my understanding is that will continue. So, the question really should be: Who is responsible for the lack of regulations — the government, or Exide? It’s certainly not the Frisco residents who have now lost their jobs.”

Brewster added that everyone has a right to their opinions, but he said he wishes people would have considered the impact it has on those who lost their jobs.

“I would ask people who support Exide’s closure, ‘What are you personally doing now to help the families you put on the street, to replace the income they lost?'” he said.

The economic impact

Felker said the closing of Exide will have both positive and negative ramifications for Frisco’s future.

“Anytime you have just one loss it’s an economic impact of some sort, but with 120 employees losing their jobs it definitely an economic impact on the city,” he said. “That’s why we, along with the Frisco EDC and community and regional partners, are doing all we can to make certain those individuals have found new jobs.”

Felker said the last figures he saw indicated roughly a half to two-thirds of the employees of the plant were Frisco residents, although he didn’t have an exact figure.

The chamber and other organizations in the city still plan on helping former Exide plant employees find work, Felker added, although he noted much of that responsibility will be taken on by Exide.

Despite the impact of the closure on the plant’s employees, there will also be a positive economic impact for the city, Felker said.

“Part of the land will be used for commercial development, especially along the Dallas North Tollway. That will be a huge economic impact to the city in terms of potential development and tax base,” he said. “Other areas of the land will be used for the benefit of the community, which could be parks and open space or other city facilities. We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out for what the full economic impact will be, but it has the potential to be substantial.”

Mayor Maso said the fact that the land will open up new real estate is a major asset to Frisco’s growth. Some of those potential uses include a courthouse and fire department training center, he said, along with office space.

For the most part, he’s just glad the city can now move forward.

“It’s been a long process — I’m thankful for our council and citizens being patient as we did this the correct way,” he said. “I think it’s a big positive for the city moving forward, and I’m proud to have had an active hand in it.”

NBC5

Battery Recycling Plant Closes; 130 Workers Laid Off

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