Waelz Sustainable Products (WSP), a joint venture between Mexico-based Zinc Nacional and Indianapolis-based Heritage Environmental Services, has received support from local officials to move forward with its plans to construct a zinc recycling facility in Cass County, Indiana.
WSP reports that the county’s redevelopment commission voted to approve WSP’s real estate purchase in the county and to approve the company’s land sale agreement.
In addition, the county commission voted to approve the allocation area for the tax increment financing (TIF) bond related to WSP’s Cass County facility. Votes were required to ensure that property taxes from the project support a local “TIF” bond that is part of the financing. Since the TIF bond is backed by a portion of the property taxes that the project creates, Cass County will not have any obligation for payment of the TIF bond nor incur any negative cash flows tied to the issuance of the bond. WSP reports that the county’s portion of unencumbered property taxes generated by the project will be a significant new revenue source that can be used for other economic development initiatives and community needs, which is projected to be as much as $7 million in direct revenue in the first 20 years and higher thereafter.
WSP states that it’s on track to begin operations of the new zinc recycling facility in the first quarter of 2021. Ali Alavi, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel at Heritage Environmental Services, says the facility is currently waiting an air permit draft. Alavi adds that once that draft is released, it will be available for public comment for a 30-day period.
However, some community groups have expressed concerns about WSP's proposed facility. Alavi says most of the concerns are related to possible lead and mercury emissions from the proposed facility. Subsequently, by early September, several lawsuits had been filed seeking to investigate and potentially overturn some of the financing and the $10 sale price for the land parcel.
An earlier effort to locate the facility in Muncie, Indiana, was discontinued in 2019, in part because of opposition from some neighboring property owners.
"Asking those questions about environmental issues is legitimate," says Alavi, adding that the company has responded to some of the major questions via an FAQ section on WSP's website. He says the company also has held several virtual town halls to talk through those concerns.
WSP says the final action needed to move forward on its Indiana facility is a formal vote of approval by the county council.
“This is a strong show of support by the commissioners, and we’re glad the project is moving forward as planned,” says Darci Ackerman, senior vice president of growth and new ventures and director of research and development at Heritage Environmental Services. “More exciting is that we expect to announce the new plant manager very soon, which will really allow us to turbocharge the hiring process in the area.”
Upon completion, WSP’s Cass County facility plans to produce zinc oxide and will service the metals sector by providing a sustainable solution for the steel industry.