An aerial view shows the Millport, Ala., Steel Dust Recycling facility owned by Zinc Nacional, the company that is partnering to build a similar plant in Muncie. (Photo: Heritage Environmental Services)
An aerial view shows the Millport, Ala., Steel Dust Recycling facility owned by Zinc Nacional, the company that is partnering to build a similar plant in Muncie. (Photo: Heritage Environmental Services)
MUNCIE. — The Steel Dust Recycling LLC facility in Millport, Ala., is the nation's second-largest emitter of mercury/mercury compounds into the atmosphere — 1,139 pounds in 2017, according to the federal government's most recent Toxics Release Inventory data.

Concerned citizens suspect that a sister facility proposed in Muncie would become the largest mercury air polluter in the nation at 1,540 pounds per year.

That is one reason there is increasing citizen alarm about the probable issuance of a construction permit for the Muncie project, doing business as Waelz Sustainable Products.

The permit application to build the $50-$55-million steel-dust recycling plant awaits a decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).

City officials say they trust IDEM to protect public health and the environment

Citizens who don't share that trust have enlisted the support of a retired environmental consultant, Alex Sagady, East Lansing, Mich., who has armed them with information to help attack the application. He is volunteering his time to their cause.

Bryan Preston, a GIS technician who lives on the south side of Muncie, found Sagady through a friend from Pittsburgh who used to do legal work on Clean Air Act cases.

While anyone can read the 238-page permit application, "unless you are a specialist in air quality, you won't be able to … make any sense of it," Preston told The Star Press.

While 60 to 90 new jobs at an otherwise useless brownfield site — the former BorgWarner automotive factory — sounds positive, the plant will be recycling a hazardous waste, steel dust, which is "toxic stuff," Preston noted.
Copyright ©2019 The Star Press