Arizona environmental regulators have signed off on a company’s plan to build an aluminum recycling plant in a farming community in La Paz County.
Alliance Metals announced last week that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality approved its application for an air-quality permit.
The proposal has sparked opposition from residents who say they fear air pollution from the smelter in Wenden would pose health hazards. During a meeting in September, people urged ADEQ to reject the permit, saying they are concerned about toxic emissions, the risk of a chemical spill, and the possible contamination of groundwater.
The company pointed out that officials have previously issued the same type of air-quality permit — class 2 — for other facilities in La Paz County, such as natural gas pipeline stations and egg farms.
Loren Barton, vice president of Alliance Metals USA, said in a statement that the operation will “go above and beyond the required environmental safeguards.”
“We will have state-of-the-art technology, infrastructure and mitigation controls to contain emissions and protect air and water quality,” Barton said.
People listen while Naveen Savarirayan, an official from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, speaks during a Sept. 4 public hearing at Salome’s Centennial Public Library on an air-quality permit for the proposed Alliance Metals aluminum plant. (Photo: Ian James/The Republic)
Gary Saiter, a leading opponent of the project, pointed out that the company’s permit documents say the facility could emit about 35 tons of pollutants annually, including nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, dioxins and furans.
“These pollutants are very hazardous,” said Saiter, who leads the local water district and school board in Wenden.
In written comments to La Paz County’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Saiter said the smelter should be built at least 25 miles from any town, not less than a mile away from homes and an elementary school.
“This is the wrong location for this type of facility,” Saiter wrote. “The risk is just too high.”
OPPOSITION MOUNTS: Residents urge regulators not to allow aluminum plant
At a meeting in Wenden on Dec. 5, the county planning commission will consider the company’s request to rezone the land and make a “minor amendment” to the county’s comprehensive plan.
The company bought the land, the site of an old cotton gin, from a farmer last year. The land is zoned as “rural area,” and Alliance Metals has asked to rezone the property as “industrial planned development.”
Saiter said more than 400 people have signed a petition opposing the project.
A FIRM ‘NO’: Aluminum plant would bring jobs, but some residents say no thanks
The company has said the plant would be “environmentally safe” and would bring new jobs and boost county tax revenues.
Florida-based Technocon International, which operates as Alliance Metals, applied for the air-quality permit in April. Technocon and Alliance Metals are led by Russian-born businessman Jacob Gitman and his son, Larry.
The facility would take in scrap aluminum. It would crush and melt down the metal, and churn out aluminum ingots, which Alliance Metals intends to sell to manufacturers. The company says the metal would be used in the auto, aerospace or military industries.
Reach reporter Ian James at email@example.com or 602-444-8246. Follow him on Twitter: @ByIanJames.
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Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team at environment.azcentral.com and at OurGrandAZ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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