October 2015: Determining What Controls are Necessary for Lead in Muncie

Air monitors in a Muncie neighborhood near the Exide Technologies facility show that the concentration of lead in the ambient air is now well within the national health standard. Following a tightening of the standard in 2008 and data that showed concentrations slightly above the new maximum level, Exide identified that emissions from its openings were the source of the problem and installed better controls. Once it’s officially re-designated to attainment status, the area of about 800 affected residents will join the rest of Muncie and the entire state in meeting the new air health standard for lead.

Unfortunately, the federal government and Exide Technologies were recently criticized for not installing a wet electrostatic precipitator (WESP) at the facility to reduce the lead emissions from the plant. There were requests that the facility be made to install the $31 million device. Arguments in support of WESP pointed out that a similar facility in Indianapolis, Quemetco, has the control device and, therefore, citizens in Muncie should be provided the same protection.

One key issue here is that Exide is demonstrating that they can meet the lead air quality standard using the controls they have in place. There is no need to add additional controls, which would cost $31 million. It is very possible that the imposition of this control would have caused the company to close this facility.

Following is a little history on what has actually occurred in Muncie regarding lead. On November 12, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the lead standard from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) (quarterly average) to 0.15 ug/m3 (rolling three-month average). On November 22, 2010, IDEM/EPA designated a portion of Muncie as nonattainment for the new lead standard based on measured lead levels. IDEM worked with the source, Exide Technologies, a battery recycling facility, to determine possible sources of lead that needed to be controlled further. A plan was prepared and carried out to make sure that the facility was better contained so that fugitive emissions could not escape from building openings. These changes were made in 2011 and early 2012.

Table 1, below, shows the three-month measured lead averages in the ambient air since the beginning of 2010. Following changes made at the Exide facility, measured air quality levels have been less than half of the standard for over three years. IDEM expects to submit a request early next year to demonstrate that the area has met the standard and should be redesignated to attainment status.

Where Quemetco is concerned, a few years ago the Indianapolis facility approached IDEM and wished to voluntarily install a wet electrostatic precipitator (WESP). The device was installed and has been in place since that time. However, the facility did not want IDEM to put limits in its permit that would require meeting limits that would be consistent with operation of the control. At the time IDEM agreed. Due to issues with failed stack tests, IDEM has since established limits for the facility which require the operation of this control device.

Where Exide Technologies and Muncie air quality is concerned, no three-month averages have been above the lead standard in well over three years. The process of dealing with nonattainment issues has once again demonstrated that IDEM can, and does, work expeditiously with sources to correct problems and return the air quality to appropriate levels, as soon as possible.

3-Month Lead Averages in Muncie (ug/m3)
Beginning Year Beginning Month 3-Month Average
2010 January 0.14
Febuary 0.10
March 0.10
April 0.16
May 0.17
June 0.20
July 0.23
August 0.26
September 0.22
October 0.15
November 0.19
December 0.17
2011 January 0.16
Febuary 0.08
March 0.08
April 0.18
May 0.21
June 0.25
July 0.19
August 0.17
September 0.17
October 0.18
November 0.30
December 0.3
2012 January 0.29
Febuary 0.17
March 0.12
April 0.11
May 0.09
June 0.05
July 0.06
August 0.05
September 0.05
October 0.05
November 0.05
December 0.06
2013 January 0.04
Febuary 0.03
March 0.03
April 0.03
May 0.03
June 0.04
July 0.04
August 0.05
September 0.04
October 0.04
November 0.03
December 0.04
2014 January 0.04
Febuary 0.04
March 0.04
April 0.05
May 0.05
June 0.04
July 0.03
August 0.03
September 0.03
October 0.03
November 0.03
December 0.03
2015 January 0.04
Febuary 0.05
March 0.06
April 0.06
May 0.06
June 0.05