EXIDE FRISCO BREAKING NEWS – Frisco, Exide clash over Stewart Creek cleanup
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Frisco, Exide clash over Stewart Creek cleanup
By VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH Staff Writer
Published: 26 February 2014 10:53 PM
Updated: 26 February 2014 11:13 PM
Plans are in the works to clean up the Stewart Creek area downstream from the Exide Technologies plant.
The plans — one from Exide and one from the city of Frisco — serve different purposes, according state regulators. Nonetheless, they are causing friction between the two entities.
Company officials complained in a letter to the state on Friday about Frisco denying access to city-owned land so Exide could get to work. But city officials say they prefer their own cleanup plan, which is more extensive and will require significant amounts of creek sediment to be removed.
“You have that area of Stewart Creek being contaminated for 40-plus years, so you have to assume there’s some degree of lead contamination in a large part of that sediment,” said Kerry Russell, an attorney working with Frisco on the cleanup.
The plant recycled used automotive batteries and operated a secondary lead smelter at a site on Fifth Street since 1969. Exide closed the plant in November 2012 as part of an agreement with the city. Work to figure out the nature and extent of the contamination on company property and surrounding areas is still in progress. Among the concerns is the amount of lead, cadmium, arsenic and selenium in the creek sediment and surrounding soil.
Bits of plastic from battery casings and a waste material called slag were frequently found during a survey of the creek last year.
Both the city and Exide Technologies have sent plans for Stewart Creek to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which is overseeing the cleanup. TCEQ officials say Exide’s plan addresses immediate exposure concerns with slag and battery chips that may be easily accessible in the creek. Frisco’s plan, on the other hand, addresses the long-term remediation of the creek, TCEQ says.
“They are actually two different types of plans with differing purposes,” spokesman Terry Clawson said.
Exide will also be required to address the long-term remediation of the creek, Clawson said. But that won’t happen until Exide’s assessment of the area is done. Its interim plan calls for collecting whatever battery chips and slag it can find along with soil and sediment in the immediate vicinity that may be contaminated.
But before Exide can start, it needs permission to enter the property. The city owns or is in the process of owning 23 of the 31 parcels that Exide needs to get to Stewart Creek. Other parcels are owned by private landowners or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The bulk of the property will be within the city’s 340-acre Grand Park, which will eventually include a large lake, festival greens and a giant play area.
“If TCEQ approved Exide’s removal plan, then TCEQ believes the plan properly addresses the issue of slag and battery case fragments along Stewart Creek,” said David Margulies, a spokesman for the company. “Exide is ready to move forward as soon as it is provided access to perform the work.”
But Frisco officials say Exide’s plan doesn’t go far enough in removing all the contamination.
“When Exide asked us can we sample and test and clean, we said you can sample and test anything you want to, but we want to do our own cleanup,” said Mack Borchardt, special assistant to the city manager in Frisco. “We believe the more thorough cleanups are merited.”
Cleanup levels under the city’s plan have not been determined. Russell believes it will be close to the background level for lead, which is between 15 parts per million and 30 parts per million. That’s much stricter than the federal cleanup level for lead in residential areas, which is 400 parts per million. A piece of slag found along Stewart Creek last year had a lead concentration of 32,000 parts per million.
The cleanup is complicated by Exide’s filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy last June. Exide and the city reached a settlement in 2012 that calls for the city to pay $45 million to buy about 170 acres of buffer land from Exide once it’s cleaned up. But the agreement is not legally valid until the court gives the OK.
Frisco officials say they have no control over the bankruptcy proceedings, so they are taking charge of the areas where they do have control. And that includes Stewart Creek.
“The city will not rely on Exide to do a cleanup of Stewart Creek,” Russell said. “The city would, under the right circumstances, agree to let Exide do the work under the TCEQ’s oversight.”