EXIDE FRISCO BREAKING NEWS: TCEQ issues Notice of Enforcement for 10 violations against Exide’s Frisco lead smelter for mishandling hazardous waste as far back as 1998
CLICK HERE FOR COPY OF SEPTEMBER 24, 2013, TCEQ NOTICE OF ENFORCEMENT FOR INVESTIGATIONS AT EXIDE’S FRISCO LEAD SMELTER
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Editorial: TCEQ action helps Frisco with Exide
File 2012/Staff Photo
Exide’s bankruptcy filing and disputes over dangerous materials found downstream have complicated the cleanup process.
Published: 14 October 2013 08:26 PM
Updated: 14 October 2013 10:45 PM
We wouldn’t blame Frisco officials for offering a hearty “we told you so” after the state’s top environmental regulator said bankrupt Exide Technologies needs to do more to clean up contaminants from its shuttered battery recycling plant.
Given the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s sometimes spotty enforcement reputation, this newspaper is pleased to see TCEQ’s aggressive investigation into Exide and the resulting list of citations. In a 10-point notice of enforcement, TCEQ says waste buried in Exide’s landfill in Frisco contains dangerous levels of lead dating to 1998. TCEQ also says Exide failed to adequately test for cadmium, a known carcinogen, before waste was hauled off to a regional recycling facility in 2012 and 2013.
Given Dallas’ bad experiences with similar remediation and redevelopment challenges in West Dallas and many parts of southern Dallas, we urge Frisco to continue to press Exide for as complete a cleanup as possible. As West Dallas knows all too well, years after a dirty lead smelter closed there, its legacy has hindered development.
Exide says it will work with Frisco and environmental regulators in remediating the plant property, but its bankruptcy filing this spring and disputes over dangerous materials found downstream have complicated the cleanup process.
That’s all the more reason Frisco should view this enforcement notice from TCEQ as an affirmation of what city officials have believed to be true about contamination around the plant site. The state agency and the federal Environmental Protection Agency also urged Exide to revise its groundwater assessment plan, which would require a more stringent and expensive cleanup plan.
Exide and Frisco struck a landmark deal more than a year ago to shutter the battery recycler, a major step toward the city reclaiming industrial land for a cleaner environment and recreational purposes. Now Frisco should take the additional step of asking the bankruptcy court judge to require Exide to put aside funds to cover the more extensive cleanup.
A comprehensive approach to reclaiming the land would end questions about contamination and potential risks to Stewart Creek and the proposed Grand Park in Frisco. With Exide in bankruptcy, none of this will be a simple matter. It is, however, the right thing to do for the environment and the community.
Exide Mishandled Hazardous Waste in Frisco
File 2012/Staff Photo
An aerial view of the landfill at Exide Technologies in Frisco in November 2012, just before the plant ceased operations.
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH
Published: 11 October 2013 10:39 PM
Updated: 12 October 2013 12:53 AM
State regulators allege Exide Technologies mishandled and improperly treated hazardous waste for years at its now-shuttered Frisco plant.
The 10 violations cited in a notice of enforcement obtained this week are based on an investigation by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. A key finding was that waste buried in the closed portions of Exide’s landfill contains hazardous levels of lead. The company had previously said that problems treating waste before disposal in its nonhazardous landfill were only a recent issue.
The alleged violations date to 1998, TCEQ officials said.
The company also failed to adequately test for cadmium, a known carcinogen, before sending about 3,388 tons of treated waste from the Frisco plant to the DFW Recycling and Disposal Facility in Lewisville between May 2012 and January 2013.
Exide officials said they had little comment because of the pending violations.
“Exide is committed to timely completion of the remediation work at our facility in Frisco and will work closely with the TCEQ as this process moves forward,” the company said in a statement.
Other violations involve hazardous waste piles stored alongside its landfill and multiple 2-ton sacks of waste stored in areas of the plant not permitted for hazardous waste.
The plant opened in the mid-1960s in the heart of Frisco. During its decades in operation, it recycled millions of used car batteries. It closed last year as part of an agreement with Frisco. In June, Exide filed for bankruptcy.
TCEQ and EPA officials also said this week that Exide’s assessment report on the extent of contamination on plant property is flawed and needs revising. The report is the first stage in a lengthy process to ultimately clean up the property.
Both agencies agree that the company needs to use a different classification for its groundwater, which means much more stringent cleanup standards.
Regulators also say Exide must investigate any contamination from its plant that has moved off-site. That includes waste in Stewart Creek that has migrated downstream.
That’s a win for Frisco, which enrolled land for its future Grand Park site in the state’s voluntary cleanup program without any assurances that Exide would take responsibility for it. The park site is downstream from the plant. A survey this year by city consultants found multiple spots of contamination.
For example, one piece of slag found along Stewart Creek had a lead concentration of 32,000 parts per million, compared with the city’s cleanup level for lead of 250 parts per million.
Exide has three weeks to respond to the agencies’ comments about its assessment report and provide a schedule for the work needed to revise it. A response is also pending on the notice of enforcement.
The city of Frisco provided similar comments on Exide’s report, calling into question its groundwater classification and absence of information on off-site effects. The company took the city to task in a response letter, citing inflammatory statements and an unwarranted personal and professional attack on its employees.
“Rather than providing objective comments on the [report] in a constructive manner, the city has made very serious unfounded accusations, including allegations that data has been selectively excluded, ignored, and intentionally submitted in misleading form. These allegations are untrue,” Exide’s attorney said in a letter dated Sept. 27.
As far as the alleged violations, TCEQ has said it is initiating a formal enforcement action because of their “apparent seriousness.” Penalties could range up to $25,000 per violation per day but will probably be negotiated to a lesser amount. If Exide and TCEQ cannot reach an agreed order on the violations, Exide may contest them, state officials said.
Kerry Russell, an environmental attorney working with Frisco, says the enforcement notice validates the city’s concerns about improperly treated waste at the plant.
“There’s no question now about hazardous waste in that landfill,” Russell said.
Earlier this year, Exide did a pilot study as part of its plan to re-treat the hazardous waste in its landfill. The methods didn’t work. TCEQ officials said this week that work remains suspended because a treatment process hasn’t been approved.
TCEQ officials say despite the presence of hazardous waste in the landfill, there is no significant soil or groundwater contamination in the area that poses a risk to the community.
Russell said the city’s larger concern is the hazardous waste buried decades ago in three other Exide landfills before disposal regulations existed.