Last week, Cass County residents had the opportunity to hear from many voices surrounding our proposed state-of-the art zinc recycling facility on WSAL’s “Talk of the Town” radio program. We were pleased to have an opportunity to speak more about WSP and outline the project’s many economic and environmental benefits.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in and around Cass County. Countless hours of my childhood summers were spent in France Park swimming and jumping off the cliffs in the old quarry with family. Cass County certainly is beautiful and WSP is committed to keeping it that way.

At WSP, we are confident that our new facility will be a model of environmental sustainability. In fact, if we are to succeed, it must be!

We are committed to adhering to or exceeding government agency-imposed environmental protection requirements and standards on our facility and process — including those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).

WSP will operate under a Title V air permit issued by IDEM. Emission limits will be determined by IDEM and reviewed by the EPA in accordance with established criteria under the law and are designed to protect human health and the environment.

Some questions have been asked about potential emissions from the facility — and a great deal of inaccurate information has been put forth by facility opponents. The facts are, worst-case mercury and lead emissions will only ever be a mere fraction of the acceptable limits set by the EPA and IDEM — and certainly well below any levels that could cause adverse effects to health and the environment.

The presence of WSP will not adversely impact the air quality of Cass County. For example, EPA estimates that levels of mercury in the air in Cass County are the same as the national average. At the plant in Millport, Alabama, where steel dust recycling (SDR) operates, the mercury levels are the same as in Logansport. This indicates the mercury in the air in Millport largely comes from sources other than the zinc recycling facility, and that levels of mercury in Cass County air are not expected to change when WSP is built.

We are able to control and minimize emissions to less than permitted levels because of our significant investment in a number of mitigation and capture technologies. The facility will use upgraded filter bags in the product collectors and have several capture points to circulate material back into the process to maximize capture efficiency. The product collectors will have sensors to detect potential bag wear and have the ability to immediately isolate the affected compartment to allow for prompt repairs and continued operation. All activity involving management of material will be conducted indoors and, in certain areas of the facility, under negative pressure — like a giant vacuum cleaner pulling in air. That way the material is kept inside the buildings and managed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.

Put simply, lead and mercury do not pose a threat to public health in Cass County, either today or in the future with the addition of the WSP facility.

I also understand the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code used on our IDEM application is causing confusion as some believe that we will operate a smelter or refining facility. The SIC code system is not perfect and no code exists for zinc recycling. “Secondary smelting and refining of nonferrous metals” is the closest category available. Importantly, the SIC category on our application does not change the purpose or function of our facility.

Before I conclude, I want to clear up any remaining confusion around the economic incentives provided to WSP by Cass County. While I walked through these incentives in a guest column published in the Pharos-Tribune on May 7, 2020, we still frequently hear that Cass County is “giving $52 million” to WSP. This simply is not true. A plain reading of the Economic Development Agreement clearly identifies the $52 million figure as an initial “development investment” by WSP in “real and personal property improvements” — not a payment by the county to WSP. In fact, our current estimate is that we will invest $110 million in our facility — far more than required in our agreement with the county.

We plan to be a good partner to the Cass County community. One of our top priorities is protecting and preserving the air, water, and soil quality of the surrounding area that played such an important role in my childhood. WSP’s strong ties to Indiana go back over 50 years and we are proud of our strong tradition of environmental stewardship. We will continue to uphold that tradition for many years to come here in Cass County.

Please visit www.wspcasscounty.com for additional details.

Darci Ackerman is the senior vice president of growth and new ventures and director for research and development for Heritage Environmental Services LLC and a WSP Representative.

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