This story has been updated, Dec. 4.
The proposed aluminum recycling smelter for Wenden 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. La Paz County District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin had requested the meeting be held there so local residents would not have to drive to Parker to attend.
Alliance Metals LLC plans to build the smelter. They have two items on the agenda for the Dec. 5 meeting. Under Agenda Item 6, they are asking for an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to allow the facility. Under Agenda Item 7, they are requesting a zoning change from Rural Agricultural-40 acre minimum (RA-40) to Industrial Planned Development (IPD) for the smelter.
The Planning & Zoning Commission does not have the final say over the smelter. They can make a recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors, who will have the final say over the change to the comprehensive plan and the zoning change.
The location will be at 70050 U.S. 60 in Wenden, near the entrance to Centennial Park. The property once housed a large cotton gin.
Alliance Metals says their plan is to bring new jobs and tax revenue into the community. They say the project will be an investment of $30 million. They add that the cotton gin which once sat on the property put out a lot more pollution when it was in operation than their smelter will.
The smelter has drawn opposition from the community. Much of this was expressed at an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality hearing on a proposed air quality permit that was held in September. Two speakers at that meeting, Wenden residents Larry O’Daniel and Gary Saiter, both expressed concerns over hazardous materials being used so clear to populated areas. They both 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 ADEQ eventually issued a Class II Air Quality permit to Alliance Metals USA for the proposed aluminum recycling smelter. 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.
“We will have state-of-the-art technology, infrastructure and mitigation to contain emissions and protect air and water quality,” said Vice President for Alliance Metals USA Loren Barton in the press release. “We are serious about running an environmentally safe and secure facility while creating new local jobs.”
In a letter to the Pioneer, Saiter said the Alliance Metals press release had several misleading statements. While Alliance was correct when they said seven air quality permits had been issued for La Paz County, he said the others were for facilities like pipelines, the landfill or Rose Acre Farms’ Lone Cactus Egg Farm. He said these would not produce the same types of pollutants the smelter would produce or used the same kinds of hazardous materials the smelter would. He added pollutants from the smelter would dangerous for humans, animals and crops.
In a recent e-mail sent to media outlets, Alliance Metals criticized Saiter as head of the Wenden Domestic Water Improvement District. They the ADEQ has sent out notices to WDIWD water users informing them of drinking water violations by the district. A WDWID notice from June 2019 that Alliance’s e-mail links to said the district had exceeded the limit for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) and Haloacetic Acid (HAA5). In the case of TTHM, they were seven times higher than the standard of .08 milligrams per liter, while they were seven times higher than the standard of .06 milligrams per liter for HAA5).
The notice stated this was not an emergency, but added that long-term exposure to TTHM or HAA5 in levels higher than the standard could lead to an increased risk of getting cancer.
Alliance’s e-mail asked why so much media attention was being paid to Saiter on environmental issues when there were problems with the Wenden Water District.
Saiter told the Pioneer these problems came about because an engineer designed the system to use citric acid instead of hydrochloric acid to control the ph level in the water. He said the TTHM and HAA5 were the result of chlorine interacting with a biological compound, the citric acid. He said the problem has been corrected and they will be going to a hydrochloric acid system.
“This happened one time,” he said. “It’s been fixed.”
Saiter also told the Pioneer the WDWID completed a $500,000 project in 2018 to remove arsenic from the water. This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If the County Supervisors should approve the project, Saiter said a referendum is being planned to overturn the Supervisors’ actions.
For more information about the Dec. 5 meeting, call the La Paz County Community Development Department at 928-669-6138.