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Health concerns over steel-dust recycling plant in Muncie

Please don't poison me, muncie zinc.PNG
City of Muncie meeting.PNG
Posted at 7:45 PM, Aug 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 18:28:31-04

MUNCIE — A new zinc production plant set to be built in Muncie by the end of 2020 is prompting many health concerns for residents.

The former BorgWarner site along Kilgore Avenue was approved by the city council to become a steel-dust recycling facility.

Jacie Clark lives within three miles of the proposed zinc production plant.

"The particles will be getting into the air; we will be breathing them in," Clark said. "They'll get into the soil, it'll contaminate our soil — so we're pretty close."

She, like others in the community, have concerns about the new 'Waelz Sustainable Products' facility, which will use two natural gas-fired kilns to produce zinc oxide from steel-dust generated at steel mills.

Zinc can be used for a variety of things like tire, rubber, ceramics, and motor oil.

"I am a realtor," Jessica Donahue said. "And I've had in the last 24 hours, 12 people — I mean I'm getting continually calls and messages — that if this goes through, we are selling our house."

Their worry stems from pollution and mercury emissions the plant could potentially give off.

"What I'm most concerned about are the heavy metals," Indra Frank, with Hoosier Environmental Council, said. "This facility, if built, would be one of the top polluters in the US for mercury and lead, and both mercury and lead are toxic to the nervous system, especially for children."

Muncie city officials have the power to stop the plant from going into the city of Muncie.

"Our job is to vet companies in a way that that will they be economical to our area," Todd Donati, with the Muncie Redevelopment Commission, said. "And this particular investment was about $85 million in a brownfield that is unsightly right now."

Donati said the plant would add 90 new jobs for the city.

It's the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's job to assess the air quality impact.

"If we find that IDEM comes back and says that this is not healthy for the community, then we are not going to issue funds or any bonds," Donati said.
Waelz Sustainable Products declined an on camera interview but submitted a statement to RTV6:

"The facility will operate in compliance with environmental laws and in accordance with air regulations and its final air permit, all of which ensures an operation that protects human health and the environment."

IDEM’s office of air quality is currently reviewing the permit application to build the facility. They're considering things like how much pollution will be released and how it will be regulated.

Hundreds of people attended a council meeting on Monday to voice their concerns over the steel-dust recycling plant.

City of Muncie meeting.PNG

Now, Muncie City Councilors are asking for more information from the environmental and industrial manufacturing specialists to determine if the plant would be safe.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management still has to approve the permit, at this time.

The council has another meeting on August 20, where they also plan to discuss the issues further with the company Waelz Sustainable Products.