Frisco Unleaded Report: New Study of Frisco Lead Contamination Estimates 300,000 Pounds of Fallout Over 48 Years; Fuels Calls for Faster Action by City to Close Smelter

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Half a century of pollution from the Exide Technologies lead smelter has blanketed most of Frisco with approximately 300,000 pounds of toxic lead dust according to an historic new study by a Houston engineering firm. Citizens group makes Earth Day-related plea to Frisco City Council to decisively choose a future without a toxic waste dump in the middle of the fastest-growing city in the U.S.

Exide Technolgies lead smelter sits in the middle of Frisco, TX

Exide Technologies lead smelter, which does not meet EPA standards for emissions, sits in the heart of Frisco, TX, the fastest-growing city in the U.S. (Exide plant is blue building in center.

“This map shows in a very graphic way that we couldn’t show before – the cumulative fallout of lead in Frisco over the life of the Exide smelter,” said Meghan Greene, a Frisco Unleaded board member.

Half a century of pollution from the Exide lead smelter has blanketed most of Frisco with approximately 300,000 pounds of toxic lead dust according to an historic new study being released by a group of residents this week.

Estimated impacts go far beyond the two-square mile EPA “non-attainment area” for lead air pollution that already encompasses much of downtown Frisco. Reaching more than five miles north and south of the smelter, and enveloping all but the extreme eastern parts of the city, the fallout pattern the Spirit Engineering firm of Houston produced is based on an EPA-approved air dispersion computer model, local meteorological conditions, and the smelter’s permits and emissions from 1964 to 2010. (To access a downloadable version of the map, and read a full explanation of how the map was assembled, go to: http://friscounleaded.com/?page_id=358)

Frisco Unleaded, a residents group opposing the smelter’s operation, is using the new study and map as a centerpiece in a flier it’s mailing to 33,000 Frisco households on the eve of Earth Day this weekend. Asking the City Council to decisively choose a future without a toxic waste site in the middle of town, members say the mailer is the first step in a renewed campaign to get the City of Frisco to amortize, or close, the smelter through the municipal zoning process.

“This map shows in a very graphic way that we couldn’t show before – the cumulative fallout of lead in Frisco over the life of the Exide smelter,” said Meghan Greene, a Frisco Unleaded board member. “This amount of pollution can cause birth defects, cancers and learning disabilities among Frisco families. It’s been two years and tons of more lead spewed into our air since Exide was declared in violation of the new federal lead standard. We can’t wait for EPA or the state to take care of this problem. We have to do it ourselves, and we have to start now.”

Greene and others said that after an initial January vote by the Frisco City Council to begin to review the smelter’s status, no further progress has been made to zone the smelter out of business. Meanwhile, they’ve watched as Dallas officials have pushed rapidly ahead with plans to amortize a slaughterhouse responsible for illegally dumping pig’s blood into the Trinity River. “It’s frustrating to see Dallas be so aggressive over a public nuisance like that while Frisco seems hesitant to protect itself from such a huge toxic problem as lead contamination.”

Frisco is one of only 22 cities in the country that don’t meet a new federal lead air pollution standard, and the only one in Texas. Exide’s smelter has been a running source of gritty, dusty controversy for this otherwise upscale community since it was declared in “non-attainment’ of that standard in 2010. The EPA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the OSHA have all levied fines against Exide over the last several years for violations ranging from illegal disposal of hazardous waste to illegal discharges into a local Frisco creek.

Release of the new study and its mass distribution by mail is the latest escalation of tactics for Frisco Unleaded, established in 2011 and sponsored by regional clean air group Downwinders at Risk. In less than a year, the group has succeeded in changing the terms of debate over Exide, from officials trying to find ways for a lead smelter co-exist in “America’s fastest growing city,” to a community consensus that the facility must be closed. Residents like Green say that consensus hasn’t been reflected in the Council’s recent lack of action. “We don’t know why there isn’t more of a sense of urgency. But we hope this map and flier will change that.”

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Jim Schermbeck
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