REPORT – Frisco citizens group raises contamination concerns about planned Grand Park expansion adjacent to Exide lead smelter site
(Some of the photographs from the 1,300 page EPA on-site inspection report and from the TCEQ on-site inspection report on the Exide Frisco lead smelter, are posted on the Lead Free Frisco flickr photostream here. Specific photos EPA inspectors took of lead slag and Stewart Creek can be found here.
Frisco’s Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2006, makes for interesting reading, including information about the Major Creek Ordinance – pages 1.71, 1.72 and information about the Urban Land Institute Study – page 1.79 – in CHAPTER 1 – SNAPSHOT OF THE CITY. )
Group Fears Frisco Will Build a Grand Park Poisoned With Exide Lead
The city of Frisco plans to build a 275-acre, $23 million “Grand Park.” It will be a regional attraction, a center to the city, replete with a festival green, a park for the kiddos and a “grand promenade” reaching out into a man-made lake with fountains of cool water.
The plan is to dam Stewart Creek let its waters fill the lake and the river features slipping through a little piece of green paradise in suburbia. There might, however, be a problem with the water flowing down Stewart Creek. Upstream, unfortunately, is the recently defunct Exide lead smelter, where, for example, the creek was lined with lead slag to prevent erosion in the 1960s. As late as 2011, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality identified discharges from the facility along the creek bank. Much of the site, including Exide’s landfill and a pile of dredged lead slag from the creek, sits within a floodplain.
It would be probably be inadvisable to wade into or fish the creek (if there are any to be caught) yet the Grand Park’s design depends on it to fill the various water features.
“This poor creek has been more or less an open sewer for the entire Exide smelter property for decades,” says Meghan Green, a board member for Frisco Unleaded, a group of concerned residents who saw the Exide smelter shuttered for good in November. “There’s every indication that a lot of contamination is still there. And yet city officials are pretending that they aren’t trying to build a huge park centered along the course of this same creek, immediately next door, and upstream of the smelter. None of the previous design meetings have even raised the possibility of an environmental assessment of the threat Exide’s contamination poses to the park.”
The group is urging city officials to perform a full environmental assessment. Current clean-up efforts, they assert in a report released Monday, simply aren’t enough. As part of the deal, Frisco bought up property as a buffer around the site and agreed on a voluntary remediation of the soil. City officials promised a “residential or better” quality clean-up, but a March remediation plan submitted to TCEQ prescribed an industrial/commercial level of soil testing, which is less stringent — two samples per acre instead of eight.
City officials told The Dallas Morning News last week that they could not impose a remediation protocol on Exide. Meanwhile, TCEQ said that because the remediation plan was a joint, voluntary application submitted by the city and Exide, they could call their own shots.The group worries contaminated hot spots may be missed under a less thorough sampling regime.
“This isn’t an industrial site that is sitting in isolation from people and activity,” says Frisco Unleaded chair Colette McCadden. “This is a site that’s next to Frisco’s largest park.”
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Frisco Unleaded report details concerns for possible contamination at future Grand Park
Updated: City of Frisco officials say that they are aware of the problems with Stewart Creek and that testing for possible contamination is planned.
“If there’s any contamination, it will be properly taken care of,” Frisco City Manager George Purefoy said at a town hall meeting Monday night.
City officials have said the Exide cleanup is being overseen by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Frisco “is working closely with TCEQ and EPA to assure the investigation and cleanup protect our residents and the environment,” city officials said in a written statement.
Original: The environmental group Frisco Unleaded released a report Monday detailing its concerns for possible contamination with the city’s planned Grand Park, which is downstream from the shuttered Exide Technologies battery recycling plant.
The report, titled ”Poisoned Park? How Exide’s Lead Contamination Risks Frisco’s Grand Park,” lists various problems documented over the years with contamination of Stewart Creek, which passes through the plant property. Those problems range from lead waste slag lining the creek bed in the 1960s to 2011 inspection reports noting discharges from the plant along the creek banks. The primary concerns are hazardous levels of lead and cadmium.
Exide closed its battery plant and secondary lead smelter in November as part of an agreement with the city. Frisco is planning to purchase about 170 acres from Exide that buffer the plant property; Exide will retain ownership of the land that held its operations, including several landfills. Cleanup of the property is underway.
“This poor creek has been more or less an open sewer for the entire Exide smelter property for decades,” Frisco Unleaded board member Meghan Green said. “There’s every indication that a lot of contamination is still there. And yet city officials are pretending that they aren’t trying to build a huge park centered along the course of this same creek, immediately next door, and upstream of the smelter.”
The group is calling for a full environmental assessment for Grand Park before the project proceeds further.
The report is released the same day as a joint meeting between the Frisco City Council and the Grand Park Subcommittee is held to review elements of the first phase of the park.
Plans for the 350-acre regional park include a large kids’ area, festival greens and performance stage and a large lake fed by Stewart Creek. Grand Park is located west of the Dallas North Tollway and north of Stonebrook Parkway. Voters approved $22.5 million in bonds in 2006 to fund some of the initial costs. The city is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its proposed lake before construction can begin.
Frisco Unleaded is also calling on the city to use the residential cleanup standards that it pledged to use on the property it is planning to buy. The property is being remediated through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Voluntary Cleanup Program based on a joint application submitted by Exide and Frisco officials.
That agreement calls for cleanup of lead levels in soil to be less than 250 parts per million, which is stricter than what’s required for residential areas. But because the application noted that property would be for non-residential use, the sampling methods being used are for commercial and industrial properties.
Commercial properties call for the collection of two soil samples per acre versus eight soil samples per acre required under the residential property cleanup standards.
“Determining whether that [residential] standard has been actually met can only be achieved through implementing appropriate residential sampling protocols,” according to a letter dated Saturday from Frisco Unleaded board members to the city.
City officials said in a statement last week that the property is deed restricted and will never be used for residential purposes. Officials added that the city had no authority to impose remediation requirements on Exide. But TCEQ officials said the sampling protocol was set by the city and Exide based on their cleanup application. Additional sampling would be needed in order to certify the property is protective for residential land use, TCEQ officials say.
The Frisco Unleaded report also calls for all of the landfills on Exide property be removed to prevent future contamination. Exide officials have said the landfills are designed to be permanent. Removing all of the waste in the landfill is not feasible, company officials have said. Remediation plans approved by state and federal regulators call for leaving the landfills in place.