|« Guest commentary on commissioners court races||2010 Elections - Commissioners court races »|
Frisco to consider health risk study of battery plant
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
By MATTHEW HAAG and VALERIE WIGGLESWORTH / The Dallas Morning News
Frisco's city officials and state regulators agreed Monday to look into doing a health risk study related to lead emissions from a battery-recycling plant in the city's center.
The commitment comes as concerns grow about health effects from lead pollution from the Exide Technologies plant, just south of downtown.
A year ago, Exide submitted an application to state regulators to increase production at the plant, which is on Fifth Street and near several neighborhoods. The city is protesting the permit and has filed a request for a contested-case hearing, which is a legal proceeding similar to a civil trial.
Recently, state regulators gave notice that an area around the plant is not expected to meet the new, more stringent federal air quality standards for lead that go into effect in Collin County in 2012. The non-attainment area is expected to be the only one in the south-central U.S.
On Monday, Frisco Mayor Maher Maso and City Manager George Purefoy drove to Austin to discuss the smelter with Mark Vickery, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The agency oversees the company's operations and is reviewing its application to expand.
Article highlighting application
The meeting, which had been planned for some time, came a day after a Dallas Morning News article highlighting Exide's application and the proposal for non-attainment.
Exide officials declined to comment for the article, saying they couldn't discuss pending applications.
The company has said in documents that a production expansion won't increase lead emissions.
The plant's lead emissions comply with current federal air quality standards, but its emissions make Collin County one of only 18 counties nationwide not expected to meet new, more stringent air quality standards.
No amount of lead exposure is safe, but it's especially detrimental to children, who can suffer from learning problems and brain damage.
Maso said at the start of a town hall meeting Monday night that the discussion with Vickery went well, but he didn't elaborate. Exide was not listed on the agenda, which limited what city officials could say.
Maso said future meetings will be planned to discuss the plant.
"Rest assured we are monitoring it and are on top of it," Maso said.
He noted that the city has been working on the issue for a while.
"I personally don't feel Exide has been responsive to our city," Maso said. "This isn't just a Frisco issue."
He said after that meeting that some residents have demanded that the plant be closed.
"I'm not sure I disagree with that," he said. "If they won't be open and transparent, they have no place in Frisco."
The health risk study, if approved, would be the first in the city since 1995, when a study identified three children living north of the plant with elevated lead levels in their blood. The study could not conclusively connect those levels with the plant's emissions.
The city had handouts available at the town hall meeting that included copies of the city's protest letter and a map with a one-mile and two-mile radius around the plant. The packet also included a format for residents interested in filing their own protest with state regulators.
Maso said people living within a mile of the plant have standing to protest, but he also urged others outside that area with concerns to send one in.
The city's sample protest letter included the following statements:
•"I am adversely affected because the documented degradation of air quality in the vicinity of the Applicant's facility has had a negative impact on me and my family."
•"An increase in the amount of allowable emissions will significantly impact me and my family."
•"My family has been adversely impacted by harmful particulates and odors from the Applicant's facility."
•"Withdrawal of the application will resolve my immediate concerns although I believe Exide's lead emissions are having a negative long term health effect on me and my family."
A summary of the city's meeting with TCEQ also stated that Vickery "agreed to further research the methodology used to determine the designated non-attainment area for the new EPA lead standards and Exide's specific permit amendment."
Exide seeks to boost finished lead production limits to 500 tons a day, up from the current limit of 400 tons a day. TCEQ is reviewing the request.
Built in 1964, the plant crushes old automotive and industrial batteries, uses heat to extract the lead and converts it into lead oxide to make recycled batteries. In the process, some lead is released into the environment.
A few months ago, Exigent proposed spending more than $1.3 million to upgrade the plant's pollution control in hopes of moving its application forward. The upgrades would help trap so-called fugitive emissions – the lead released through a crack in a building or by a truck leaving the plant.
In November 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency gave notice that the federal air quality standard for lead emissions would become 10 times more stringent – from 1.5 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter.
The plant's current lead emissions are projected to exceed the 0.15 lead standard, according to state data.
Also see: DMN - Frisco officials fight plans to expand lead smelter
No feedback yet
Comments are closed for this post.