The two opposing sides in the proposed zinc reclamation plant took the stage together Friday night, each side presenting their arguments on the situation.

The Cass County Citizens Coalition (CCCC) hosted the informational public forum at the McHale Performing Arts Center with both sides giving presentations to about 100 people, then answering the audience’s questions.

This is the first such forum since the project first came to public knowledge in March at a Cass County Commissioners meeting.

The county has been approving measures to allow Waelz Sustainable Products (WSP), a joint venture between Heritage Environmental of Indiana and Zinc Nacional of Monterrey, Mexico, to build a plant that will heat arc furnace dust in kilns to separate it into iron and zinc.

The dust is waste product from mills recycling steel, and the two planned kilns would use anthracite coal to make the separation.

The WSP speakers were Darci Ackerman, SVP of Growth & New Ventures at Heritage and a 26-year employee of the firm; Patricio Madero, head of strategy and new business development for Zinc Nacional; Dr. Kathryn Kelly, president of Delta Toxicology and a WSP-hired consultant with a doctorate in environmental toxicology from Columbia University; and engineer Russell Kemp, managing principal of Ramboll who wrote the application for WSP’s clean air permit and specializes in air quality management, environmental regulatory compliance and more.

The CCCC speakers were Hoosier Environmental Council’s Dr. Indra Frank, a physician who specialized in pathology with an MD from John Hopkins University and a Masters in public health from Indiana University who went into environmental health in 2004; Dr. James Rybarczyk, retired associate professor of analytical chemistry at Ball State University; Dr. Morton Marcus, Director Emeritus of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University; and Dr. Vivek Sahgal, who specializes in infectious disease, internal medicine, and lung diseases and tuberculosis.

Ackerman started by differentiating WSP from American Zinc Recycling plants that had been brought up by those opposing the project and that Heritage employee Ali Alavi had been associated with.

American Zinc has had troubles with regulations.

She also said an $80,000 fine at the company’s Alabama plant was from the previous owners over the certification of a storage building that was rectified.

Kemp said “WSP will meet or exceed all state and federal health and environmental regulations and standards.”

The clean air permit it applied for through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management “will have teeth,” he said.

A date for public comment on the draft of that permit has not been set yet, but the public can ask questions for 30 days and can request a hearing.

Frank said that retired state toxicologist Jim Klaunig, which Kelly and the WSP website claimed deemed the project safe, is an acquaintance who responded to links on the WSP website with an email to her stating “I never endorsed anything with this project.”

Marcus said that one benefit WSP has been touting, the $6.6 million in property tax money that will go to the county after the rest of the property taxes pay off a Tax Increment Financing bond issue, is the taxes already on the property and is no increase.

The Pharos-Tribune will have more on the story online Monday and in print Tuesday.

Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at james.wolf@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5117

Twitter @JamesDWolfJr

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