Here are important details that Alliance Metals and Mr. Barton are not sharing:
On September 4th, 2019, ADEQ conducted a public hearing at the Community Center in Wenden. It was the culmination of a 30-day public comment period as part of Alliance’s application for an Air Quality control permit. Attending were about 150 local citizens and most of the senior management of La Paz County in attendance. Approximately a dozen people signed up to speak. Every speaker expressed opinions and facts opposing the aluminum recycling smelter development and no one supported it at its proposed location. In fact, a spokesperson for the company had signed up to speak, but when it became his turn, he declined to step forward and speak for the company. With overwhelming opposition to this project, I am confident it made him think twice about defending it.
Both the Wenden Elementary School Board and the Wenden Water District passed motions to officially oppose this development once they became aware of the potential hazards. These two boards represent the only elected officials in Wenden. (These two boards were never contacted about the proposal of this project prior to locating to the town)
Locating a secondary aluminum smelter in a populated area violates all of the rules of modern zoning and planning. No consideration was given to the social, economical and environmental impact to its location. The EPA labels such facilities as a major source of hazardous air pollutants. This kind of operation should be located at least 25 miles from a population center. Alliance’s location is within Wenden town limits, .34 miles from the closest home, .75 miles from the elementary school and the entire town of Wenden is within 1.0 miles of the proposed smelter location. This is a concern for several reasons.
Stated in the company’s application to ADEQ and in the Draft Permit ADEQ is considering, the facility will emit nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead and hazardous air pollutants including dioxins and furans. The total amount of hazardous emissions will be up to 35 tons per year, as stated in ADEQ’s Technical Review and that’s even with all the emission control measures that the company touts applied. Currently, 35-tons of those pollutants do not foul the air today in McMullen Valley. They talk about the pollution that the cotton gin caused in the valley but that is a moot point since it has been years since there was a cotton gin on that property that was in operation.
Additionally, the facility will use and store 30,000 gallons of chlorine. (This is an extremely large amount of chlorine). We have done air dispersion models of the area using EPA software created to assess risk. In the event of an accident that causes a catastrophic release of chlorine, assuming a 10 mph wind blowing toward the east, a cloud with the concentration of 4,000 parts of chlorine per million will cover the entire town of Wenden in less than six minutes. According to the CDC, a concentration of 4,000 parts per million is immediately lethal. There would be no time to evacuate.
With regard to Mr. Barton’s remark about trucks: “There will only be a couple of trucks per hour passing through the facility.” I can only go back to the information they submitted to ADEQ. The facility will be operating 24/7. They will be processing 87,600 tons of ingots and bars per year. That’s 7,300 tons per month or 14.6 million pounds per month. That’s 365 20-ton trucks per month on the secondary roads of Wenden and Salome.
The company continues to talk about jobs so let’s examine that for a minute. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, almost 22% of people working in aluminum smelting operations develop “potroom” asthma, COPD, pulmonary issues and/or cancer within the first two years of employment. To put that into perspective, if the company were to actually hire 30 people, as they say, seven of those people would develop health conditions or disease that would stay with them the rest of their lives. It hardly seems worth the risk for a few jobs.
With regard to taxes, they like to discuss how their increased taxes would help. There is no doubt that more tax income would be appreciated however most of it would go to Wenden Elementary and the High School. None would go to Salome Elementary because they are out of district. They know that the community has been flooded several times so they talk about flood control. Their tax money would go into the general fund of the County with absolutely no guarantee that any of it would be spent on flood control let alone even in the Wenden and Salome area. As far as taxes for the Community College, very few people in Wenden or Salome use the services of the Community College since it is located in Yuma with a branch in Parker, over an hours drive from Wenden.
According to the Counties Comprehensive Plan, there are parts of the County already designated for heavy industrial use. The McMullen Valley where Wenden and Salome are located is not one. According to the County’s plan, Policy 4.11 “Protect the existing and continued agricultural uses of the McMullen Valley and discourage development not adjacent to existing rural community or medium density developments”. Agriculture does not go with heavy industry.
There are other issues around the location of this smelter such as 40 percent of the property being in the flood plain and in a place where there have been three 100-year floods in since 2000. The fact that it is on the edge of a land subsidence bowel, which will increase flooding, and that almost 10% of the property is on National Wetlands as declared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
I would welcome Alliance Metals and their operation to La Paz County and encourage their development not in the middle of a population center, but in a more appropriate location.
Chairman, Wenden Water Improvement District Board
President, Wenden Elementary School Board