We were pleased that hundreds of interested Cass County residents recently joined us for two virtual town hall sessions to learn more about the economic benefits and environmental aspects of our state-of-the-art, environmentally sound zinc recycling facility.

As I mentioned during the town halls, I grew up in Logansport and still have family here, so the success and well-being of this community is a top priority for me. I am confident that WSP will be a benefit for our community and a strong contributor to Cass County for many years to come.

I also think it’s important that we continue to have a fact-based discussion about who we are, what we do and how our operations are safe, environmentally sound and will benefit Cass County. For this reason, we are looking forward to participating in face-to-face public meetings once they are scheduled.

In the meantime, I wanted to reiterate a couple of points that came up during our recent discussions — and to correct the record on a couple of statements that opponents are making that simply are not true.

WSP’s partner companies, Heritage Environmental Services and Zinc Nacional, are proud of their strong records of environmental stewardship, and WSP will be no different. In fact, this facility will be an excellent example of sustainability in action. WSP plays a crucial role in the circular economy by recycling and recovering value from byproducts produced by the steel mini-mill industry, avoiding the need to dispose of that waste in landfills or to extract critical minerals from the ground through labor- and energy-intensive mining, preserving these natural resources for future generations.

We are committed to being a good steward of the local environment and adhering to — and exceeding — state and federal environmental regulations and standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency understands the sustainable and environmentally sound nature of our business, declaring the Waelz (High Temperature Metal Recovery) process the Best Available Technology for processing EAF Dust.

The Waelz Kiln process is deemed environmentally sound because of the safe, proven manner in which EAF Dust is converted to saleable products with little to no waste or emissions. Modern facilities, like WSP, equipped with proper mitigation and capture technologies, can achieve high capture efficiency and minimal emissions, therefore posing no adverse effect on employees or local residents.

What does that mean for the air quality here in Cass County? It won’t change. The levels of lead and mercury in the air in Millport, AL, where our sister facility SDR is located, are less than 1% of EPA thresholds. In fact, the air in communities with a Waelz facility is virtually identical to their neighboring towns and cities, suggesting that facilities like WSP do not change the air quality.

Other critics have raised increased levels of lead in Palmerton, PA. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease (ATSDR) report clearly shows that lead concerns in Palmerton’s soil are due to over a century of largely unregulated emissions from two large lead smelters in the community – not recycling zinc.

Our commitment to Cass County extends beyond environmental stewardship and includes transparency and integrity in our actions and operations. If you ever have a question, don’t speculate or guess, just ask us. For instance, there has been speculation about what, if any, plans WSP has for expansion in Cass County and inaccurate statements that WSP will build an incinerator, smelter or refinery in the future. I can tell you unequivocally that we will not build an incinerator, smelter or a zinc oxide refinery in Cass County. Any suggestion to the contrary is at best uniformed, and at worst, a purposeful effort to sow fear and confusion.

This is more than an investment in a facility. It is an investment in this community and its people. We will create 90 permanent, good paying jobs with an average starting salary of $49,000 – that’s 35% greater than the average salary in Cass County. Because some have questioned this figure, we can share that the median salary is $41,000 and more specific salary information can now be found on our website. And, as a reminder, while we will be investing $110 million in this facility, Cass County will be contributing $1.2 million and receiving $6.6 million in a return on its investment over the first 20 years of operation, and more thereafter. We are confident this will be a sound investment and good partnership.

Moving forward, we will have a company representative at County meetings, whether or not we’re on the agenda. Additionally, you can always reach me or a member of our team through the portal on our website, www.wspcasscounty.com. We encourage further engagement and look forward to continuing the dialogue with the community — virtually as needed, and in person as soon as possible. We strongly believe that this is a partnership and we are confident that this partnership will be a net benefit for this community.

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

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