EXIDE FRISCO NEWS: Frisco citizens group joins city’s own expert critical of Exide’s plan to clean up lead smelter site
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The stories below refer to information from a declaration William Wheatley (expert with environmental engineering consulting firm Cook-Joyce hired by Frisco) filed in July with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware in support of the joinder the City of Frisco filed in support of the TCEQ’s motion to object to court approval of a $500 million in debtor-in-possession loan to Exide. (The $500 million loan was approved by the same bankruptcy court judge that oversaw Exide’s first bankruptcy in 2002.)
CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO COMPLETE FILING OF WILLIAM WHEATLEY’S DECLARATION. (Information in story below taken from this document)
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Type of groundwater at issue in cleanup of Exide property in Frisco
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
Published: 09 September 2013 10:27 PM
Updated: 09 September 2013 10:56 PM
Environmental groups are siding with a city of Frisco consultant and demanding more stringent cleanup at the closed Exide Technologies plant.
At issue is the type of groundwater that runs under the plant’s landfill. If it could potentially be used for drinking water, standards for cleanup are greater and more costly.
“Whether the groundwater underneath Exide’s active landfill is rated a Class 2 or 3 resource is critical to the kind of cleanup and monitoring procedures that need to be followed for the entire site, including the landfill itself,” according to the letter the groups sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Friday.
That was the last day for public comment on the groundwater monitoring plan that Exide submitted to the state for approval. That plan is based on the less stringent Class 3 rating.
TCEQ officials said Monday that staff members are still evaluating data from Exide. TCEQ will ultimately decide which rating applies.
Exide and officials with the city could not be reached Monday for comment.
Exide closed its battery recycling plant and secondary lead smelter in November as part of an agreement with Frisco. In June, the company filed for bankruptcy.
But efforts to close the plant have continued. The company reported in August that decontamination and demolition of its buildings in Frisco are done. The only structures that remain are the administration building, the wastewater treatment plant and the crystallizer, which helps treat wastewater.
The focus has turned toward assessing the extent of contamination on the property and how best to clean it up. The main contaminants are cadmium, a known carcinogen, and lead, which causes a host of health problems, including learning disabilities in children.
The groundwater plan relates to cleanup ordered for Exide’s landfill, which was found to contain hazardous waste in violation of the company’s permit. A pilot test to remediate that waste was suspended because of conflicting data, TCEQ stated Monday.
“The landfill in question is in fact a Class 2 nonhazardous landfill only on paper,” last week’s letter by Frisco Unleaded and Downwinders at Risk stated. “Hazardous waste was disposed of in this landfill and hazardous waste remains in the landfill now.”
Their letter supports a declaration filed in bankruptcy court in July by a Frisco consultant. Wade Wheatley of the environmental engineering consulting firm Cook-Joyce Inc. stated that Exide data warrants the Class 2 groundwater rating. Action levels for lead in the soil under a Class 2 rating are 100 times greater than those in a Class 3 rating — 274.51 parts per million compared with 27,451 parts per million.
Those Class 2 action levels “would have a significant impact on the amount of waste that would need to be removed or properly contained and controlled on-site, thereby significantly increasing the costs to properly remediate the site,” Wheatley wrote.
Wheatley also stated that data suggests the groundwater beneath Exide is contaminated. But Exide’s consultants have said they found no contamination.
“It’s clear that Exide is trying to get away with a cheaper, less protective cleanup than the agency’s own regulations demand,” Colette McCadden, chair of the citizens group Frisco Unleaded, said.
The groups also applauded the city of Frisco for hiring an expert to oversee the cleanup.
Said McCadden, “We know we have to get this right the first time because we might not get a second chance.”
Frisco’s Own Expert Critical of Exide’s Plan to Clean Lead Smelter Site
The clean-up of toxic land around the former Exide lead smelter in Frisco hasn’t even begun yet, and already it has drawn criticism from state regulators and now the city’s own expert. In testimony submitted on behalf of Frisco in Exide’s bankruptcy proceedings, William Wheatley, an engineer and former director of waste permits for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the company was basing its clean-up on faulty assumptions about the groundwater below.
The quality of the groundwater guides the stringency with which Exide’s lead dump should be remediated. Despite clear evidence, the company incorrectly classified groundwater beneath the site, he testified, according to citizen groups Downwinders at Risk and Frisco Unleaded, which were instrumental in the closing of the smelter. A “Class 2” groundwater resource can pump 150 gallons of usable, potable water a day. A “Class 3” is a weaker, less productive well you wouldn’t drink. It’s a big distinction, and it carries big implications in terms of how thorough (and expensive) lead-removal efforts must be.
“[Exide’s engineering consultants] concluded that groundwater at the
site is not impacted. However, as discussed below, that conclusion is based in
part on the characterization of the uppermost groundwater bearing unit as a
“Class 3″ groundwater resource,” Wheatley said. “It is my opinion that a ‘Class 3’ designation is unsubstantiated and technically incorrect based on currently available
information which clearly indicates that the groundwater is a ‘Class 2’ resource.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Exide has been accused of planning a less-than-thorough clean-up. The site, which is downriver from Frisco’s planned $23 million, 275-acre Grand Park, sits on Stewart Creek — a stream that will feed the park’s many water features.
A TCEQ staff member worried that covering the contaminated Exide soil with “geo-membrane fabric” wouldn’t stop lead-laced battery chips from washing into Grand Park and ending up in “a child’s mouth.”
Complicating matters, the clean-up comes at a time when Exide has filed for bankruptcy for the second time in a decade, leaving worried residents uncertain about the fate of remediation plans.