MEDIA ROUND-UP: Exide’s Public Meeting – Clean up at Frisco lead smelter on pause
by JOBIN PANICKER
Posted on May 9, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Updated yesterday at 11:38 PM
FRISCO — It’s been six months since Exide shut down its facility in Frisco. Residents at a public meeting on Thursday night saw the progress through pictures of the demolition at the former battery-recycler.
But this public meeting had a much different format than a normal town hall; consultants were staged at tables where residents could come up and ask questions.
Exide is in the process of cleaning up the waste its plant left behind, but that clean up has stalled after pilot samples taken in March by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) tested higher-than-standard levels for cadmium and lead.
“One lab says they’re okay and another lab says they’re not, so we’re trying to work through how do you deal with conflicting data,” said one consultant.
That conflict in data didn’t help restore confidence with the residents who showed up. It’s also not sitting well with Jim Schermbeck, who is with a group called Downwinders At Risk.
“It’s just not a very good solution to keep this stuff on-site in a landfill that wasn’t meant for hazardous waste,” Schermbeck said.
Equilla Harper is from Frisco, and she said she came away with more questions than answers. She questions whether Exide has the financially stability to carry out the clean up.
“Once [Exide] leaves, it’s gone,” said Harper, who is with Frisco Unleaded. “And as a community, we could possibly be left holding the financial bag.”
No official comment was made at the public meeting, but Exide did provide a statement about when clean up can start again.
“We provided the info that TCEQ asked for, and we’re waiting for them to tell us to move forward,” said Susan Jaramillo, a company spokesperson.
“I want it cleaned up… I don’t want it treated and stay here,” Harper said.
Exide said so far the cleanup and demolition is on schedule. The project is scheduled to be finished in May of 2014.
Related WFAA stories:
- Clean up at Frisco’s Exide plant location on pause
- Some Frisco residents unhappy with smelter demolition plan
- Plans for Exide demolition released during fiery public meeting
- LINK: Exide shutdown and remediation information
- Exide reveals cleanup plans for shuttered Frisco plant
- Controversial battery recycling plant officially closes in Frisco
- Decontamination around Exide plant could be lengthy, expensive
- City and Exide make a deal: Frisco lead plant closing
- Exide to cease operations in Frisco
- LINK: Exide Technologies website
Residents speak to Exide one-on-one at third public meeting
By Anthony Tosie, firstname.lastname@example.org, @anthonytosie on Twitter
Local residents received the chance to speak to Exide Technologies officials and partners at the latest meeting regarding the company’s demolition of its Frisco lead-acid battery recycling plant.
Thursday’s meeting used an open house format, the first time the structure has been used in one of Exide’s public meetings; the prior two meetings were led by speakers from the company and its demolition partners. Those speakers were still on hand for the meeting, although meeting attendees were able to ask questions of their own choosing, provided they fit in with stations set up for the meeting.
Five stations were available for residents, who were able to ask about the decontamination and demolition process, the landfill’s remediation, air monitoring results from the site, remediation of land surrounding the plant, and a general overview of the plant’s demolition and remediation.
The Frisco Enterprise and other media outlets were barred from asking the representatives questions and were instead referred to the company’s spokeswoman, Susan Jaramillo.
The city of Frisco agreed to acquire about 180 acres of land surrounding the plant for $45 million nearly a year ago in a deal that required the plant’s closure. Since the plant closed on Nov. 30 after 48 years in the city, however, the demolition and cleanup has progressed behind schedule.
Jaramillo said Exide is hopeful it will be able to complete demolition of the plant and cleaning of the surrounding land by May 2014. Currently, the plant is about 75 percent demolished; at its first public meeting in December, the company said it hoped to complete demolition by March 1.
“There’s so many factors in the timetable at play — some of the actions we have to take are dependent upon things such as weather and wind,” Jaramillo said. “We also have to submit results to the appropriate agencies for review, and that in turn can lead to feedback from them before we proceed.”
Officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the agency reviewed samples from the landfill near the plant, and three exceeded environmental standards — one for lead and the other two for cadmium. The noncompliant lead sample also exceeded toxicity levels. After reviewing the samples further, the agency will provide Exide with guidance on how to proceed.
Downwinders at Risk and Frisco Unleaded, two local advocacy groups that have pushed for the closure of Exide’s Frisco plant for years, attended the meeting and passed out fliers stating residents “can’t rely on Exide to clean up [its] smelter mess” and that more aggressive oversight from the city and the Environmental Protection Agency is necessary.
Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk, said he was unhappy with the meeting’s format but doesn’t blame the company’s employees who were present.
“It’s a tried-and-true method for companies and agencies that want to disperse opposition — we were kind of anticipating they would turn to this format after the last meeting was such a failure,” he said. “It’s kind of a meeting without a cause since they’re not allowed to talk about test results, nor are they talking about the cost of demolition so far. We don’t have an issue with the people here doing their jobs. We have an issue with how the company is proceeding.”
Exide’s stock price has fallen rapidly since April 24, when California regulators ordered the closure of a similar plant owned by the company in Vernon, Calif., because of safety violations. In after-hours trading Thursday, the stock price was $0.83, down from a 52-week high of $3.77.
Schermbeck said the company’s uncertain future should be a cause of concern for residents, as it could delay cleanup efforts or, worse, cause the cleanup to stop entirely.
“The biggest issue that’s not on the agenda tonight is whether this company is even going to be around in a few months,” he said. “On one hand you have this company that’s increasingly losing money, and on the other side you have this site that increasingly needs money to be cleaned up — that’s not a happy ending usually.”