Battery Maker Exide Declares Bankruptcy as Frisco Attempts to Clean Its Toxic Legacy [Updated]

Categories: Biz

Pollution woes and lagging sales have driven battery maker Exide into bankruptcy for the second time in a decade. For the city of Frisco, the timing couldn't be more inopportune.

In exchange for shutting down an Exide smelter that had been pumping lead and arsenic into the air and nearby Stewart Creek for decades, the city purchased a buffer zone from the company around the site's polluted epicenter. Frisco and Exide have submitted plans with the state environmental regulator to clean up what's known as the "J-Parcel." Exide, meanwhile, would maintain possession of the actual smelter site.

With the battery maker struggling financially, seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections -- and, potentially, relief from environmental liabilities -- Monday's news creates uncertainty surrounding the future of the toxic site.

On Downwinders At Risk last week, Jim Schermbeck pondered a possible silver lining in an Exide insolvency. "The upside of an Exide bankruptcy is that now the company won't be able to hold the rest of the city hostage by keeping the site a toxic dump forever," he writes. "Because it won't own it anymore. Going belly up means there are other options besides the ones Exide was dictating because of its ownership."

Frisco could, he speculated Monday, purchase the site, taking up the hard work of decontaminating the land -- work Exide may never have begun.

On the other hand, he notes somewhat less optimistically, it could become a federal Superfund site, with taxpayers assuming responsibility for its rehabilitation.

Loss of ownership by Exide could prove fortunate, considering Frisco's plans to construct a "Grand Park." The 275-acre, $23 million centerpiece of the city will be built around a number of water features -- each fed, as we noted last week, by the very same Stewart Creek that Exide once treated like an open sewer.

There's no way to know how this bankruptcy and ownership of the smelter site will shake out. But with its filing Monday morning, city officials must be wondering what will become of the toxic-waste dump just upstream from its biggest public project.

Updated at 3:06 p.m.: Frisco Mayor Maher Maso says he believes the remediation of the land Frisco purchased in exchange for the smelter's shutdown will continue apace, along with Exide's plan to dismantle the smelter facility. "We did speak with Exide this morning," Maso said. "The company assured us they have every intention of living up to terms of the agreement."

A potential purchase of the smelter site by the city, a city spokesperson says, was not discussed.

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Sure, you can trust the company that took your money when they sold you the buffer zone and have now gone to bankruptcy court to get out of all obligations.

That money was just a nice exit tip for the management there.

primi_timpano topcommenter

This will not go well and likely will end worse. Marginal company commits extreme environmental damage. No indication of insurance and the company is selecting bankruptcy,


It still amazes me people built all these nice huge homes and a high school right next to a lead polluter. And then they want to complain it is there after the fact. Sounds like Texas.

holmantx topcommenter

Exide employs 10,000 in 80 countries.  They lost Wal-Mart to Johnson Controls as Wal-Mart's sole supplier of transportation batteries, which shoved them into Ch 11.  That reorganization, folks, not liquidation.

They've lined up a $500 million bankruptcy loan from J.P. Morgan Chase and I do not think the bankruptcy judge is going to let them walk from a polluted site in Frisco.  

So don't get your panties in a wad just yet.

And, no, it would not be a good thing if this site was dumped onto the taxpayers' back.

we all taxed out.


Really That's Okay because  it looks like  RICH Folks in Frisco are more resistant to lead poisoning  than those POOR Folks who lived by the Murph Metal West Dallas and Dixie Metal Superfund site in Far Far East Oak Cliff.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Who says they wont own it anymore?  Unless they file chapter 7 and dissolve, they most certainly can retain ownership.  Also, if they end up not owning it, they I guess the taxpayers pay for their mess, lovely


@holmantx That's not even remotely what was being advocated in the original blog post. It's the release of Exide's ownership on the entire site as a result of bankruptcy that promises some chance of redevelopment - i.e. creating jobs and expanding the tax base - before it winds up as a Superfund Site.


@ScottsMerkin Nobody says for sure Exide won't own it anymore. We're just spitballing on potential outcomes here. That particular outcome might be the best one for the future of the site, because nobody's particularly confidant that the company  is going to spend the money to clean it up.


@TheCrusher @oakclifftownie Both of those sites now look like something for TV show Life after People.

 DIXIE METALS Is now a Monitored  Hazard site and is a TOMB for a lot of what was just to hazardous to remove from the site.

Murph in West Dallas is still waiting for the money it will take for the  final clean up .

And yet Frisco Plans on Converting the same kind of facility that has been contaminating  the with  area with those same byproducts for almost half a century into a  Park ?  

Why wouldn't someone who has lived withing the MURPH  fall out area and worked within the DIXIE Metal decontamination area believe Frisco has a more lead resistant population ?

The Clean up hasn't started and they are talking about whats going to happen when its over ?

There are lots of surprises in store and it will not be inexpensive .

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@brantley.hargrove1 yeah, I was more referring to what Mr Downwinder Schermbeck said, not so much your commentary Mr. Loafers with no socks man :P



Here is google streetview of OU5 in the  RSR Corp superfund site on Westmoreland:

The (possibly outdated) sign says:

No Trespassing

Authorized Personnel Only

Hazardous Substances Present


Here is the latest 5 year review, maps start on page 73:


Looks like they buried some of the contaminated soil so they are vigilant about erosion occurring. They mention beavers potentially causing unwanted erosion in the review.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@schermbeck I read the blog post, and as Ill quote here exactly what was quoted in the article

"The upside of an Exide bankruptcy is that now the company won't be able to hold the rest of the city hostage by keeping the site a toxic dump forever,"


@ScottsMerkin @brantley.hargrove1 Reports have them spinning off their European operations - not a good sign because that's the division making all the money right now. California shut down a smelter the company desperately needs until it puts on expensive controls - also not a good sign.  It wouldn't be the first time a company used bankruptcy to 86 their environmental liabilities. While you're right that no one knows the fate of the property for sure, if you actually read the blog post, what's said is that this provides an opportunity for Frisco to take back control of the entire site - not just the less contaminated "outer ring." EPA doesn't want this to become a Superfund site and neither does Frisco. The location of this site provides some hope that if Exide were to give up what it still owns, all of it could be developed instead of left for decades with lots of leaky lead-filled landfills. 

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