Concerns mount over lead exposure from Muncie plant

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MUNCIE, Ind. (WTHR) - The Exide plant has been in Muncie for decades, breaking down batteries for recycling. Lead is reclaimed form lead-acid batteries and other lead-bearing materials.

However, a report from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) suggests the hazards may extend beyond the people that work there.

The report followed an inspection of the plant in June of last year and notes “children of two Exide employees with elevated blood levels requiring medical treatment.”

And that “Tests found high levels of lead in the employees’ vehicles and areas around their homes.”

Pediatrician Dr. Robert Byrn says he sees it all the time in children with parents working at the plant and believes workers are taking lead residue from the plant to their homes and families.

“I don’t know that I would say dozens. I would say several in terms of whose parents work there,” said Dr. Byrn. “lead in a child can cause many problems. It can lead to lower IQs academic problems. Increased risk of ADHD. Hearing and speech problems. It can affect nearly every organ system in the body.”

But Byrn’s concerns aren’t just with employee’s families, but anyone living nearby.

“I’m fearful that there is a larger problem around the plant and the children that live close to the facility,” said Byrn.

That’s already been on the mind of Cher Fitzgerald. You can see Exide from her front door.

“I was researching trying to find someplace where they can test my ground for me, so I can make sure there is no lead in there,” said Fitzgerald.

Cris Anne Nolley lives even closer and says she and a neighbor are having their water tested.

“It scares me that I have no idea what they are putting off and inevitably I am afraid I could get cancer from it,” said Nolley. “I would like to see it closed, taken away.”

The IDEM report also cited violations from the company – for improperly storing leaking batteries.

Dr. Byrn says there needs to be a higher level of accountability.

“We just want assurances that the way the plant operates is as safe as possible,” said Dr. Byrn.

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