FRISCO — For the first time, documents show contamination concerns extend beyond the site of the former Exide Technologies lead recycling plant in Frisco.
News 8 has learned that battery and chemical waste was discovered along five miles of Stewart Creek. The creek also runs close to Grand Park, where the City of Frisco is proposing a major new development.
Equila Harper, who heads up local environmental group Frisco Unleaded, is in search of battery chips — black pieces of plastic seen on the ground. She said they are everywhere along Stewart Creek.
These are deposits from the now-shuttered recycling plant.
"Until the source of contamination is taken care of, this community will forever have this problem," Harper said.
Frisco ordered a walking survey because the land in question is crucial to Grand Park, the city's next big development.
And Stewart Creek runs right through it.
"With Exide being there, there was an anticipation that there was a potential for chips to be in Stewart Creek having come from the plant down the creek," said Mack Borchardt, special assistant to the Frisco city manager.
Survey results obtained by news 8 prove there were "occurrences" of chips found along the creek.
But there could be a bigger problem. The creek drains into Lewisville Lake.
"None of that info has been made public to the community," Stewart said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is overseeing the cleanup at the Exide plant. It is clear in an email released in a public records request that the agency knew there was an issue last year.
A TCEQ employee wrote: "It is a concern if a Frisco resident pulls [a battery chip] out of their child's mouth."
TCEQ saw the independent survey, and spokesman Terry Clawson said:
"The observation of chips indicate that additional investigation of the creek is warranted to determine if they pose a risk to human health or the environment."
But it's not just the battery fragments. Frisco Unleaded made a recent public records request for sediment samples taken in a 2011 study. That study tested levels for lead, cadmium, selenium and arsenic over samples at 30 sites. The majority of the samples tested exceeded the TCEQ ecological benchmark.
Frisco says cleanup of Stewart Creek will take a year, and it will require additional testing.
"We will develop a more comprehensive testing plan for that entire property in concert with TCEQ," Borchardt said.
On Monday, Frisco applied for a voluntary cleanup with TCEQ. But who will pay for it?
The city said "there is an expectation that Exide would cover it." That company, however, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.