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.
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."
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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."
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.