The city of Frisco plans to build a 275-acre, $23 million "Grand Park." It will be a regional attraction, a center to the city, replete with a festival green, a park for the kiddos and a "grand promenade" reaching out into a man-made lake with fountains of cool water.
The plan is to dam Stewart Creek let its waters fill the lake and the river features slipping through a little piece of green paradise in suburbia. There might, however, be a problem with the water flowing down Stewart Creek. Upstream, unfortunately, is the recently defunct Exide lead smelter, where, for example, the creek was lined with lead slag to prevent erosion in the 1960s. As late as 2011, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality identified discharges from the facility along the creek bank. Much of the site, including Exide's landfill and a pile of dredged lead slag from the creek, sits within a floodplain.
It would be probably be inadvisable to wade into or fish the creek (if there are any to be caught) yet the Grand Park's design depends on it to fill the various water features.
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"This poor creek has been more or less an open sewer for the entire Exide smelter property for decades," says Meghan Green, a board member for Frisco Unleaded, a group of concerned residents who saw the Exide smelter shuttered for good in November. "There's every indication that a lot of contamination is still there. And yet city officials are pretending that they aren't trying to build a huge park centered along the course of this same creek, immediately next door, and upstream of the smelter. None of the previous design meetings have even raised the possibility of an environmental assessment of the threat Exide's contamination poses to the park."
The group is urging city officials to perform a full environmental assessment. Current clean-up efforts, they assert in a report released Monday, simply aren't enough. As part of the deal, Frisco bought up property as a buffer around the site and agreed on a voluntary remediation of the soil. City officials promised a "residential or better" quality clean-up, but a March remediation plan submitted to TCEQ prescribed an industrial/commercial level of soil testing, which is less stringent -- two samples per acre instead of eight.
City officials told The Dallas Morning News last week that they could not impose a remediation protocol on Exide. Meanwhile, TCEQ said that because the remediation plan was a joint, voluntary application submitted by the city and Exide, they could call their own shots.The group worries contaminated hot spots may be missed under a less thorough sampling regime.
"This isn't an industrial site that is sitting in isolation from people and activity," says Frisco Unleaded chair Colette McCadden. "This is a site that's next to Frisco's largest park."