Frisco City Council voted 5-0 on Jan. 2 to approve an amendment to the 2012 master settlement agreement with Exide Technologies.
Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said the changes have been a long time coming for the city. He acknowledged that the project is not as exciting as some of the city's other initiatives, the most recent being the relocation of the Professional Golfers' Association of America's headquarters. Nonetheless, it will pay off in the long run, he said.
"It may go down as one of the most significant achievements of Frisco," he said.
The city of Frisco and Exide Technologies are looking to end their long-running dispute and move forward with cleanup of areas still contaminated by the former battery recycling plant.
Frisco City Council is expected to vote Jan. 2 on an amendment to its 2012 agreement with Exide.
That deal six years ago called for closure of the plant, which had too-high lead emissions. In exchange, the city would purchase nearly 170 acres Exide used as a buffer from surrounding development for $45 million. Exide also had to clean up the land and Stewart Creek, which had been contaminated after decades of operations.
But Exide’s 2013 bankruptcy filing and differences over cleanup standards bogged down the process. In April 2017, Exide filed a civil suit in federal court against the city in part over shared costs of the buffer land cleanup.
This new proposal, if approved, resolves several issues and outlines how the remaining cleanup will proceed. Completion is still three to five years away. But the hope is to eventually turn the former Exide site into something useful. Frisco officials have talked over the years about adding office buildings or city facilities there some day.
The proposed amendment spells out the city’s share of cleanup costs on the buffer land. It also allows Exide to get a permit so it will not have to truck millions of gallons of wastewater offsite for disposal. The wastewater would instead go through the city's sewer system. And the amendment details containment measures Frisco wanted to prevent any future contamination.
The closing date on the sale of Exide’s buffer land to the city is targeted for the end of January. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is doing a final review on the cleanup done there.
Once the city releases the funds for that land sale, Exide must post a $25 million surety bond with TCEQ that will guarantee funding is available for work on the rest of the site, according to terms of the amendment.
Exide will also file to dismiss its federal suit and pay its own attorneys’ fees, according to the amendment.
“Hopefully [we] have now got a plan to get everything done that was set in motion back in 2012,” Frisco city manager George Purefoy said.
Exide is under new leadership with November’s appointment of Timothy Vargo as president and chief executive officer. The company already has the necessary approvals for the amendment, according to a spokeswoman for the company based in Milton, Georgia.
“Exide Technologies is pleased to have reached a settlement with the city of Frisco, and we look forward to working cooperatively with city officials in the future,” the company said in an emailed statement.
The buffer land will be split between Frisco’s Economic Development Corp. and Community Development Corp. Boards for both entities will vote on the amendment with Exide at their regular meetings later in January.
When the Frisco plant ceased operations on Nov. 30, 2012, it had 134 employees and was recycling about six million used automotive and industrial batteries a year. It also generated some of the highest lead emissions in the country. Lead is a heavy metal linked to a host of health problems, according to numerous studies.
Exide’s closure put a stop to the pollutants emitted in the air. But the surrounding land had been exposed to decades of contamination from lead, cadmium and arsenic.
The cleanup process involves removing contaminated soil as well as pieces of broken battery casings and a waste material called slag. The four landfills on Exide’s property will also need to be properly sealed to contain the hazardous waste in place.
The amendment between Frisco and Exide details that containment process. Frisco has also agreed to pay an estimated $600,000 to add an extra 12 inches of soil beyond the two-foot cover already planned for much of the site.
Purefoy said that money could be used as credit on any future lease payments should the city decide to use the land once cleanup is complete.
The former industrial site will be transformed into grassy fields adjacent to the future home of Grand Park. Development of that 350-acre park is on hold while the city awaits approval for plans to create a lake.
Grand Park combined with the former Exide land in the heart of the city “could become a great asset for the citizens of Frisco,” Purefoy said.