The firm that wants to bring a zinc reclamation plant to Cass County an in-person public forum on Wednesday, and it lasted for almost three hours.

WSP Holdings (Waelz Sustainable Products) had set up the event at the Cass County Fairgrounds 4-H Community Center for 250 people and announced it over the weekend.

The available tickets for the event were gone within hours, according to a company spokesman, but only about 50 people were inside the meeting.

 

There was also a crowd of about that many outside the building, holding signs and protesting as people drove in.

During the meeting, voices on both sides were raised.

The meeting started with officials from WSP and firms they hired talking about what the proposed project is about.

The plant would have two kilns that use anthracite coal as a carbon source to turn electric arc furnace dust, which is a byproduct of steel mills recycling to reclaim steel, into zinc oxide and concentrated iron.

Ali Alavi, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel for Heritage Environmental Services, went over the finances of the project.

He said WSP, which is Heritage and Zinc Nacional of Mexico in partnership, will invest $110 million into the project, and besides the county selling 54 acres for $10 to WSP, it is supposed to create a Tax Increment Financing bond of up to $23 million.

It will also give approval for a private activity bond for WSP, which will allow the company to not be charged taxes on its personal bond.

Cass County will give about $1.2 million in additional economic incentives, he said.

Of the property taxes WSP will pay in the first 20 years, 77 percent will go to paying back the TIF bond and 23 percent will go to the county .

That would mean $6.6 million in taxes to the county, but that $6.6 million would be the 20-year total.

The WSP panel agreed that would mean the company would pay the county about $330,000 a year in property taxes.

Resident Bryon Stephens said that would mean 2.9 cents a day per county resident and added that is an amount someone could find that going through the Walmart parking lot each day.

All property taxes would go to the county and governmental bodies after the 20 years.

Kathryn Kelly, an environmental toxicology specialist that WSP has hired, presented a new model for air dispersion of emissions from the proposed plant.

In the worst case scenario of lead emissions leaks, someone at the edge of the property would be safe staying there for 70 years.

 

“I know this doesn’t sound plausible, but these are the data,” Kelly said. “You can live at this fence line for an entire lifetime and not meet EPA [danger levels].”

It would be 10 times lower than the EPA threshold, she said.

Kelly told the people that the modeling was based on the five other zinc reclamation plants in the United States.

People were concerned about the lead and mercury emissions from the plan, as well as the transporting of the hazardous waste electric arc furnace dust into the planned facility.

Kelly also said that it’s in the company’s interest not to have the electric arc furnace dust escape because that’s where the profit is.

“Anything that is lost off the site is lost profit or lost revenue,” she said.

Asked about the other materials from the process, the panel said there was nothing else and the other trace materials remain in the two final metals.

“Everything ends up in one of those two products or in the emissions. These are the three products, that’s it,” said engineer Russell S. Kemp of Ramboll Environment and Health of Atlanta, Georgia.

Patricio Madero, head of strategy and corporate development for Zinc Nacional, said that it’s not perfect and everything would have some emissions.

“At the end of the day, something is going to be emitted,” Madero said.

Madero had also said that the hiring of the plant manager, the highest paid employee at a $130,000 to $182,000 salary, has begun.

And of the eight candidates they plan to interview next week, four are from Cass County.

The plant is supposed to provide 90 jobs, and the WSP officials said they like to hire local.

The jobs are also with an average salary of $49,000.

Those jobs would include 12 jobs that start at $13 an hour and 10 jobs that start at $14 an hour, as well as three jobs that start at more than $75,000.

The company’s website www.wspcasscounty.com lists the jobs and pay.

The Cass County Citizens Coalition, a Facebook group opposed to WSP building its facility here, is holding its own public meeting at the fairgrounds this Saturday, June 26, from 5-8 p.m.

 
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