By Shawn Byrne

Sun Editor

A  company wanting to operate a secondary aluminum smelter in Wenden recently cleared a major hurdle when Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) granted a Standard Class II Air Quality permit.

“This type of permit we have been granted is common in La Paz County. Our operation will also go above and beyond the required environmental safeguards,” said Loren Barton, vice president for Alliance Metals USA. “We will have state-of-the-art technology, infrastructure, and mitigation controls to contain emissions and protect air and water quality.

“We are serious about running an environmentally safe and secure facility while creating new local jobs.”

The granting of the permit by ADEQ doesn’t mean the company has cleared all the hurdles necessary that would allow it to begin its operations. A strong contingent of residents from Wenden and Salome continue to voice concerns about the plant. The two rural farming communities are located about 50 miles west of Wickenburg on U.S. 60.

“This does not mean that their smelter will be safe and not pollute,” said Gary Saiter, chairman of the Wenden Water Improvement District and president of Wenden Elementary School Board. “It just limits the amount of pollution. People may think because it has been approved by ADEQ it is okay, but it only limits the amount of pollution.”

Alliance Metals wants to bring new jobs and economic development to the site of a closed down cotton gin at 70050 U.S. 60, according to a statement released Nov. 19. The company said it would “go through additional state and independent third-party testing each year to make sure water and air in the area are protected.”

The company has stated on numerous occasions it will be investing $30 million into the project, which is expected to turn into 30 permanent jobs up-and-down the wage scale. Alliance sees being granted the permit by ADEQ as a victory for its investment of creating new local jobs and what it calls “a substantial increase in tax revenue for schools, first responders and community services” in the area.

The property that Alliance purchased is currently zoned for agriculture. The company is going in front of the La Paz County Planning and Zoning Commission for rezoning approvals at 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Centennial Community Center, 69725 Centennial Park Road in Wenden. Final approval or denial of a rezone will come from the La Paz County Board of Supervisors at a later date.

In its statement, Alliance says its zoning requests allows the Board of Supervisors to put stipulations and conditions on the company to open and operate the facility.

“We want to make sure the community knows that we have a steadfast commitment to protect water and air quality,” Barton said. “Our recycling efforts are centered around sustainability. We will practice what we preach.”

(1) comment

Gary Saiter

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.

Gary Saiter

Chairman of the Board Wenden Domestic Water Improvement District

President of the Governing Board of Wenden Elementary School

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