Steel dust recycling project on brownfield site dropped amid opposition

The developers of a proposed steel dust recycling plant have dropped plans for the central Indiana project following a wave of local opposition the company blamed on a “campaign of misinformation.”

Muncie officials announced Tuesday that the city and Waelz Sustainable Products had agreed to call off the plant. That agreement is pending a resolution with the Muncie Redevelopment Commission to acquire the 85-acre brownfield site the company had chosen for the project, The Star Press reported.

Waelz Sustainable Products is a joint venture between Indianapolis-based Heritage Environmental and Monterrey, Mexico-based Zinc Nacional, which had said the project planned for the site of a former BorgWarner automotive factory would have created up to 90 jobs over several years.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. had offered the company up to $5 million in conditional tax credits from a program that provides incentives to invest in former industrial sites. The city of Muncie and the Muncie Redevelopment Commission had also committed support for the project.

The proposed plant generated strong opposition from local residents and adjacent communities driven by concerns about pollution emissions and its impact on property values.

The plant would have recycled trainloads of steel dust, which is classified as a hazardous waste. Mercury, lead and other hazardous air pollutants would have been released during a rotary kiln process to recover zinc and iron.

Dave Ring, who owns The Downtown Farm Stand organic grocery store in Muncie, helped organize a Facebook group dedicated to stopping the project. He said after attending Tuesday’s news conference announcement that he’s glad the plant won’t be built in the city about 35 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

“A lot of people are going to have their stress relieved,” Ring said.

Nigel Morrison, the director of Waelz Sustainable Products, bemoaned the local opposition that ended the proposed plant.

“We made every effort to engage in meaningful dialogue with community leaders, address the concerns of residents and make this project a reality,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a campaign of misinformation tainted the process and ultimately made it impossible for the city council to continue supporting the project.”

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