Frisco's Own Expert Critical of Exide's Plan to Clean Lead Smelter Site

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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.

See also: Battery Maker Exide Declares Bankruptcy as Frisco Attempts to Clean Its Toxic Legacy

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."

See also: TCEQ Staff Fears Frisco Parents May End Up Pulling Lead Chips "Out of Their Child's Mouth" At Grand Park

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.


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3 comments
Willie
Willie

Indeed the difference has quite the ramifications, but it doesn't matter since TCEQ has approved Exide's plan.  

As far as the bankruptcy derailing the remediation, DO should look into whether Exide was required to have financial assurance (bond, insurance) as part of the plan.  Probably not.   

Sonya Kuris
Sonya Kuris

I'm glad you covered this.. So many people are choosing to ignore this situation.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@Willie TCEQ has not approved the landfill remediation plan. Comments were only due Friday. Exide carried a minimum bond, but certainly nothing like the $150 million it will take to completely clean-up the Frisco site for normal development.

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