Waelz Sustainable Products LLP (WSP) along with the city of Muncie, Indiana, and its redevelopment officials have announced an agreement to discontinue efforts to establish operations in Muncie, pending a resolution with the Muncie Redevelopment Commission to acquire the brownfield site. WSP is a joint venture between Heritage Environmental Services LLC, Indianapolis, and Zinc Nacional, Monterrey, Mexico, which formed in August 2018.
In January, WSP had announced plans to invest about $75 million in a 30-acre kiln facility at the former BorgWarner campus in Muncie. The facility would have produced zinc oxide from steel mill byproducts. The proposed project was awaiting its final air permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, WSP reports in a news release.
However, the company faced backlash from the Muncie community on the development of this facility.
“Identifying and vetting new business opportunities and partnerships that bring economic and civic benefit to our community is vital to the health and future success of Muncie,” says Todd Donati, director of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission. “This particular investment would have revitalized a decade-old eye sore, helped to address significant existing environmental issues at the site and generated hundreds of jobs in Muncie. I worked with WSP and its partners for more than a year and at no time, including now, did I feel that they would produce any product that would be dangerous to our community or environment.
Donati continues, “However, the vocal opposition to the facility by many in our city has made clear that this project would never enjoy widespread community support. While this is not the result we had hoped for, we respect the input from our concerned citizens and will continue to seek new opportunities for the redevelopment of the BorgWarner industrial site and new jobs for the city of Muncie.”
“We chose Muncie as a site for this potential project with a sense of partnership with the city and its residents and the strong belief that we could bring meaningful revitalization and value to the community,” says Nigel Morrison, director of WSP. “We made every effort to engage in meaningful dialogue with community leaders, address the concerns of residents and make this project a reality. Unfortunately, a campaign of misinformation tainted the process and ultimately made it impossible for the city council to continue supporting the project.”
Morrison continues, “In agreement with Muncie city and redevelopment officials, we have collectively decided to move on from Muncie. We met or exceeded all environmental regulations, were evaluating enhanced emissions control technologies to implement that would further address stakeholder concerns and believed in the merits of the investment, but the project was never judged fairly nor given the time and unclouded consideration it deserved. While not the outcome we wanted, we wish the city of Muncie and all the hard-working families residing there nothing but the best.”
Several other municipalities interested in becoming the future site of the proposed project have reached out to WSP to initiate discussions about immediate efforts to select a new location and those discussions are underway, WSP reports in a news release.