Exide Technologies withdraws application to reopen, News 5 uncovers dozens of violations in its past
BRISTOL, Tenn. - It has been nearly a month since we found out Exide Technologies would not reopen part of its plant in Bristol, Tenn. Some say its a loss for the community, while others are glad the company is not coming back.
News 5's Kristi O'Connor uncovers hundreds of documents revealing environmental violations from when the company was open until 2014. We do not know if nearly three hundred signatures on a petition sent to the state and request for a public hearing had anything to do with Exide withdrawing its application to re-open.
The company released this statement to News 5: "Based on further analysis driven primarily by the need to increase speed to market, Exide Technologies decided to expand its formation capabilities at existing operating facilities instead of its idled site in Bristol, TN. Leveraging resources at current operating facilities will allow Exide to increase formation capacity faster and more economically to meet rapidly growing customer demands." "While the idled facility in Bristol remains a potential option for future expansion projects, the Company will withdraw its permit application seeking immediate approval to resume formation operations at the facility." "The Company appreciates the support from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, City of Bristol Economic Development personnel and community members." Since Exide may still open in the future, we decided to look into the battery-manufacturing company's history. Especially, since so many people were standing against the facility reopening. News 5's Kristi O'Connor filed a freedom of information request and obtained more than 100 pages of violations, penalties and reparations documented by the Environmental Protection Agency. The documents cited sulfuric acid spills and mishandling of hazardous waste. Plus, seventy-five pages worth of violations Kristi obtained from the city's archives, provided only after a formal request and payment from WCYB.
One document revealing Exide discharged wastewater into the city's sanitary sewer system, on 55 different occasions in a 5 month period. All of which contained higher amounts of lead than permitted. We asked ETSU Professor of Environmental Health Phillip Scheuerman just how dangerous these two toxins can be. He told us they are potentially dangerous depending on how much lead and sulfuric acid is released and what is exposed to it. "Lead is an extremely controversial toxin because we really don't know how toxic lead is," Scheuerman said. "It's a neurotoxin and in young children it can lead to learning disabilities, cognitive dysfunction in population general, it has cardiac effects." He says it can also be neutralized to reduce concentrations. We asked the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation how these pollutants are monitored. While declining an interview, they did reveal there is an air monitor in the direct vicinity of Exide, that screened lead emissions on a six day schedule.
Since the facility is closed, there are no emissions now, but there could be again if the plant reopens. Here is TDEC's full response to News 5's request: "Exide surrendered its air quality permit on October 30, 2014; therefore the entity is not currently authorized to operate a source of air pollution at the facility. If the company chooses to do so in the future, they would need to apply for and receive an air permit. TDEC does have an air monitor in the direct vicinity of the Exide facility that monitors for particulate lead on a six day schedule. TDEC also operates air monitors in the Kingsport area that monitor for particulate matter, ozone and sulfur dioxide. Tennessee is currently designated attainment for lead, the constituent of concern with regard to the Exide facility."
We also asked TDEC if there were any long-term effects from the spills at Exide. This is TDEC's response:
" Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4
All reported spills that occurred at the site since 1996 were cleaned up appropriately when they occurred. Current monitoring occurring to ensure public and environmental health is related to legacy contamination from the former Sperry Unisys operation that occupied the building at 364 Exide Dr. prior to Exide. Our current investigative activities relate to indoor air vapor intrusion inside the plant and offices."