FRISCO (CBSDFW.COM) – The Frisco City Council has joined a group of residents who want a longtime Battery Recycling facility to move out.
On Tuesday night, a unanimous decision paved the way for the city to force Exide Technologies to close after nearly 50 years because of concerns over neighborhood lead contamination.
Longtime employees like Raymond Dimas could lose their job if that happens.
“It took me years to develop what I know now,” says Dimas.
The 51-year-old has been a lead refiner at Exide’s Battery Recycling plant for more than 30 years.
He spoke at Frisco’s City Council meeting Tuesday night where concerned citizens called for the facility to be shut down because emissions of lead around plant have in the past exceeded safe levels.
There’s “a lot of new residents coming in and I don’t blame them for being scared,” said Dimas. “I was scared when I first started here but my lead blood level has never been high.”
Plant officials say only three of its 130 employees tested recently have higher than normal lead levels in their blood.
They’ve been moved to other jobs around the facility until those levels drop, said Plant Manager Don Barar during an exclusive tour of the facility Wednesday.
“You can see what these folks do the pride they show in their work,” says Don Barar, Plant Manager.
Barar says Exide will go to court if necessary to continue operating as it has since 1965.
He says air monitors around the plant show improvement and that a R20 million renovation is underway to improve safety.
Five buildings on the 270-acre site are scheduled for major modifications that management says will bring them up to new federal standards.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ordered a study last April after the plant failed to meet federal air quality standards.
The results of that study, released in September, found 18 violations, including ones that alleged the recycling plant exhibited lapses in employee training and did not properly discharge of hazardous waste.
The tour required protective gear that employees that officials say helps keep lead from leaving the plant as much as it protects those who wear it.
Dimas called the protective gear a minor inconvenience. The father of four wears it each day and said he hopes the city will give the plant more time to change so he doesn’t lose his job.
“I have 3 girls ages 10, 12 and 20. Give us a chance let us do what we do best and work together,” says Dimas.