More than 100 people were given a message of cautious optimism Sunday night at the public forum the Cass County Citizen’s Coalition [CCCC] held at the McHale Performing Arts Center.
The main speaker was Dr. James Rybarczyk, a retired associate professor of analytical chemistry and environmental chemistry at Ball State University who’s also trained as a toxicologist.
Rybarczyk came to give the entire presentation he didn’t have time for when experts for the CCCC’s and the proposed Waelz Sustainable Products [WSP] zinc reclamation plant held a joint forum on Aug. 21.
Before he gave his interpretation of figures for the proposed plant, the two attorneys representing three cases connected to the plant spoke about progress.
Attorney John Schwarz said he feels they are catching up to WSP’s lead because of people’s activism.
Schwarz also talked about the negotiations between CCCC and WSP, which the Cass County Council ordered after it held off a vote on two possible bond issues for the zinc plant.
The CCCC representatives are in the fact-finding stage, talking to experts to understand what they can negotiate for and making a trip next week to Millport, Alabama, where WSP has a similar plant.
Attorney Jim Brugh called the $23 million Tax Increment Financing bond that will pay for WSP infrastructure, such as water, and said, “The biggest giveaway in county history. It’s so big that the council members choked on it.”
Brugh also encouraged the crowd to vote in November and keep voting to put people into offices that will listen to the people.
While the attorneys’ talks resembled a pep rally at times, Rybarczyk’s resembled a classroom as he reviewed facts, arithmetic and quotes.
The plant will use kilns to heat electric arc furnace dust from steel recycling and get zinc and iron, but the opponents also say there’ll be lead and mercury and dioxins.
Rybarczyk was one of the people involved in getting WSP out of Muncie, and he said WSP uses a pattern of behavior of secrecy, contradictions, changing stories and dates and using word games and legalese.
He also said that it’s not true that WSP left Muncie because of arrests of public officials and no city council members were arrested.
“They were leveraged out of Muncie,” he said.
In Cass, WSP’s clean air permit application through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management was not available until after Cass County approved financial incentives for WSP, Rybarczyk noted.
He said that Cass residents should insist on a public hearing, where IDEM officials will have to respond to questions, rather than a public meeting.
“I’ve gone through all the numbers in their permit, and nothing there is real,” he said.
The amount of lead estimated to come in with the dust and the estimated lead to go with emissions still leaves lead unaccounted for, he said.
If 95 percent of the existing electric arc furnace dust is now split between five existing Waelz plants, that leaves 5 percent for a Cass County plant.
One of the things that needs to be negotiated is continuous chemical air monitoring paid for by WSP and tested by a third party, he said.
He also said that what little everyone public knows about the WSP plant is miniscule compared to what they don’t know.
The Pharos-Tribune will have more on the forum on Tuesday.