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Indiana governor gets complaints about steel-dust recycling facility

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb outlines his legislative priorities during a press conference at the governor’s residence in Indianapolis on March 31. (Photo: AP)

MUNCIE, Ind. — Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office received 11 complaints as of Monday afternoon about the proposed Waelz Sustainable Products’ steel-dust recycling facility.

“The project is in the beginning stages of the permitting process and the governor is receiving updates as it progresses,” press secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer said.

In a news release in January, Holcomb was quoted as saying:

“Indiana is home to a growing global economy with more than 950 international business establishments across the state, and I am thrilled to see Waelz Sustainable Products join that list.”

Waelz is a joint venture between Indianapolis-based Heritage Environmental and Monterrey, N.L., Mexico-based Zinc Nacional.

“The transformational redevelopment being led by Heritage Environmental and the new manufacturing operation being established by Waelz Sustainable Products will both have a significant impact on the community, revitalizing the area for future growth, enhancing the quality of place in the Muncie community, and providing good, high-paying jobs for the Indiana workforce,” the governor’s statement in January said.

The site of the project is the demolished former BorgWarner automotive factory on the west edge of the city.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation, chaired by the governor, offered Waelz up to $5 million in conditional tax credits from the Industrial Recovery Tax Credit (DINO) program, which provides an incentive to invest in former industrial sites and improve quality of place in Indiana communities.

The city of Muncie and the city of Muncie Redevelopment Commission also committed their support to the project.

But that was before hundreds of angry citizens thronged city hall recently to demand that council rescind its support for the project, which would recycle steel dust.

Nearly 10,000 more have signed a petition demanding that the city “put a stop to the hazardous waste processing facility” that “would emit some of the highest levels of airborne mercury and lead in the country.”

Holcomb’s press secretary on Monday told The Star Press: “I would like to note that DINO tax credits are conditional. For local economic development projects to receive state tax credits, they are contingent on meeting all state environmental permitting standards.”

The names of the 11 complainants who contacted the governor were not accessible on Tuesday.

Waelz has submitted a construction permit application to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, where it’s still pending.

The Waelz facility would recycle steel dust by the trainloads, reclaiming valuable zinc and other metals from the dust.

According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, waste dust from iron and steel production facilities, which includes steel “mini mills” and integrated steel mills, such as U.S. Steel Gary Works and Arcelor Mittal in Northwest Indiana, can be a “listed” RCRA hazardous waste.

This RCRA hazardous waste dust is called “K061” by RCRA, the acronym for the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that governs the management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste.

As far as the specifics of how the proposed Muncie facility will operate in the future, EPA says it has not yet received information on the detailed nature of the production process.

When this information becomes available, EPA Region 5 based in Chicago, and IDEM, will work cooperatively to determine if the facility would require a RCRA permit in addition to the construction permit.

The state has said the project would create up to 90 jobs over the next several years at the former BorgWarner campus as one part of a significant investment to transform the property and facilitate the creation of up to an additional 210 jobs at the re-purposed site.

The state news release in January said the company planned to break ground on the facility in early 2019 and be operational by late 2020.

Jeff Laborsky, president and CEO of Heritage Environmental, was quoted in the news release as saying, “As an Indiana-based family business, we are proud to revitalize a brownfield property and bring more opportunity to the city of Muncie. We considered a few other locations in the Midwest but selected Muncie, Indiana, because of its superior business climate, community, and its proximity to many of our customers in the steel industry.”

The first phase of the development would establish the new Waelz recycling facility followed by a second phase of development to create more space for Heritage Environmental or for additional businesses to locate and create more jobs.

Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834 or seths@muncie.gannett.com

Read or Share this story: https://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2019/08/13/governor-gets-complaints-steel-dust-recycling/1999214001/



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