The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a Class II Air Quality permit to Alliance Metals USA for a proposed aluminum recycling smelter in Wenden. In a press release, the company said this is an important milestone in their plans for a $30 million facility that will brings jobs and tax revenue to La Paz County.
The release goes on to state Alliance Metals plans to operate an environmentally safe facility that will bring economic benefits to the McMullen Valley. However, one of the leading opponents of the facility, Wenden resident George Saiter, said in a letter to the Pioneer the press release has many misleading statements.
Alliance Metals said they have been seven similar Air Quality permits issued in La Paz County. Saiter said these have been for facilities that are very different from Alliance Metals, including the county landfill and Rose Acre Farms’ two egg farms. He noted none of these facilities will produce the pollutants or use the hazardous materials that Alliance Metals will.
The press release states their facility will not produce as much pollution as the old cotton gin that was once on the site did. Saiter said the cotton gin has not been in operation for two decades, and added that it did not produce the same type of pollutants that the smelter will produce.
“It’s just not an equal comparison,” he said.
Loren Barton, Vice President for Alliance Metals USA, said the company will go above and beyond the required environmental safeguards.
“We will have state-of-the-art technology, infrastructure and mitigation to contain emissions and protect air and water quality,” Barton said in the press release. “We are serious about running an environmentally safe and secure facility while creating new local jobs.”
The smelter has drawn opposition from the community. Much of this was expressed at an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality hearing on the air quality permit that was held in September. Saiter and Wenden resident Larry O’Daniel and both expressed concerns over hazardous materials being used so close to populated areas. They said they didn’t object to Alliance Metals coming to La Paz County, but that it should be in an area already zoned for industrial use.
The location will be at 70050 U.S. 60 in Wenden, near the entrance to Centennial Park. As was noted in the press release, the property once housed a large cotton gin. Alliance Metals is seeking an amendment to the County’s Comprehensive Plan and a zoning change from Rural Agricultural-40 acre minimum (RA-40) to Industrial Planned Development (IPD).
The proposed smelter for is on the agenda for the La Paz County Planning and Zoning Commission for their Dec. 5 meeting. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Centennial Community Center located at 69725 Centennial Park Road in Centennial Park, which is between Salome and Wenden.
As expected, ADEQ will issue the permit to Alliance Metals, but this does not mean that their smelter will be safe and not pollute. They claim to have “state of the art technology, infrastructure and mitigation controls to contain emissions” but these claims do not acknowledge that they will pollute regardless of the measures taken. According to Alliance Metals application to ADEQ and as outlined in the Permit, this facility will emit nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, dioxins and furans. In fact, according to those documents the facility will emit 35 ton of these pollutants annually. These pollutants are very hazardous to crops, animals and humans. As stated in a 1994 report by the EPA, “no level of exposure to dioxin is considered safe.” The levels of these pollutants are considered safe levels by ADEQ but they aren’t.
“There are already 7 air quality permits granted in La Paz County of the exact type granted to Alliance Metals”. That statement from their press release is like saying that all automobiles in Arizona have an Arizona license plate so all of the automobiles in Arizona are the same. That is not true. All Air Quality Control permits that are issued by ADEQ are not same. Each permit is created individually for each application and actually, there are nine ADEQ issued Air Quality permits in the county and not seven. This information is directly from an ADEQ request for information. Five of them are Class I permits and four of them are Class II permits. The permit that is being issued to Alliance Metals is Class II. Only one of the permits rose to the level of requiring a public hearing like the one ADEQ held on Alliance Metals application and this permit was Rose Acre Farms. None of the facilities they point out emit dioxins and furans…none of the facilities have huge quantities of chlorine….none of the facilities store or produce toxic salt cake…and none of the facilities are on a flood plain and on an active land subsidence bowl.
To be specific about the permits: One of the permits is for the La Paz County landfill, five of the permits are for El Paso Natural gas pipeline stations, one is for a North Baja gas pipeline station, one is for Morgan Truck Body manufacturing in Ehrenberg, and finally one is for Rose Acres Farms/Lone Cactus Egg Farm. These are not the same as Alliance Metals permit will be. Their operation will be the most impactful of any in the county with regard to the environment and public health.
“Will produce significantly less air pollution that (sic) cotton gin did when it was operating.” as stated in Alliances press release.
This is yet another misleading statement as they continue to grasp at positive things to say about their operation. The cotton gin has not been in operation for two decades! Even when it was running it only ran during harvest season, not 24/7 like they plan with the smelter. When it did run the emissions were particulate matter. The particulate matter that they will be emitting will be aluminum particles. Plus again, the cotton gin did not emit dioxins and furans or have huge amounts of chlorine or salt cake. It’s just not an equal comparison.
Their comments about monitoring are also misleading. Their permit calls for them to be self-regulated. There is no credibility there. If a third party was hired to monitor it would be paid for either by the company or by the county. They are not independent if the company is paying the bill and the county cannot afford to pay one. Additionally the county is not trained, manned or allowed to monitor their activities. The EPA has only authorized the state of Arizona and Maricopa County to do such monitoring.
Calling this facility an “aluminum recycling and manufacturing operation” is disingenuous. This proposed facility if a secondary aluminum smelter with all of the associated risks and dangers. This is not a simple recycling operation. Recycling facilities, like Ecology in the county, do not require an Air Quality Control permit.
Chairman of the Board Wenden Domestic Water Improvement District
President of the Governing Board Wenden Elementary School
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