Clean-up of Exide lead smelter site, Exide's Negative Impact on Other Communities

EXIDE BATON ROUGE: New plan to close former Exide site expected to be completed early this year

Two years after the state Department of Environmental Quality denied a north Baton Rouge facility another extension to its halt in production, a revised cleanup plan is expected to be completed in early 2016.

Most of the buildings at the Exide Technologies Baton Rouge Recycling Center on Brooklawn Drive have been demolished, and 3,500 tons of concrete and other materials have been hauled away for disposal. However, the problem of remaining arsenic, lead and other material left behind from decades of industrial activity at the site still must be addressed.

The company has been doing additional soil sampling in recent months to get a better handle on where these materials are located before revising its closure plan.

Initial planning called for a “clean closure” — the removal of any material containing lead or other pollution. The plan now is to put some kind of cover on the production area to keep any pollution in place.

“I think we were all somewhat optimistic about a clean closure in the operational areas,” said Dutch Donlon, administrator of waste permits with DEQ.

The modified closure plan will include timelines and actions proposed to contain the area, likely a cover of concrete, clay or something else to keep pollution in place. After that is in place, it’s likely only monitoring will take place on the site.

The facility, which has served as an industrial location since the late 1960s, was purchased by Exide in 1999. Exide operated as a lead recycling facility that provided material to make batteries, chemicals, ammunition and other products.

The company requested to temporarily stop production at the facility in 2009. Because of the nature of the business, the law required that it restart operation within 30 days unless it received an extension — which can be used to keep a facility open while waiting for economic conditions to improve.

Extensions were granted by DEQ in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but a fourth extension was denied, which set in motion the cleanup phase for the site.

Exide representatives declined comment.

In addition to the buildings where the recycling operations took place, the site also includes two closed hazardous waste landfills, one closed solid waste landfill and a section of Baton Rouge Bayou that runs through the property.

Additional soil testing around the operational site was completed in November and will be used to put together the modified closure plan, said Lina Saale, environmental scientist with DEQ.

At Baton Rouge Bayou, sediment samples in an area contain lead, likely from stormwater runoff from the property.

Lead discovered by soil sampling was removed, and additional sampling is being done to look for more lead or other potential problem materials, said Laura LeBouef, geologist with the underground storage tank and remediation division at DEQ.

There are 10 monitoring wells at the site looking for groundwater contamination. The wells have been in operation for years without finding any such contamination from the Exide site, she said. That monitoring will continue after the cleanup is complete.

“We’ve been fortunate we’ve not seen any increasing trends in these wells,” LeBouef said.

A mandatory 30-year monitoring period will take place after the site is closed.

“Lead is not that mobile in the environment,” said Gary Fulton, administrator of the underground storage tank and remediation division.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,