Proposed recycling plant causes controversy in Muncie

MUNCIE, Ind. – There’s controversy in Muncie surrounding a proposed steel-dust recycling facility. Residents are outraged saying they knew nothing about it. City leaders are on edge after saying they were misled.

At first, there was no opposition to the proposed Waelz Sustainable Products Steel-Dust Recycling Facility.

“Millions of dollars of investment, a number of good-paying jobs,” said Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler.

Not only that, but there’s also an opportunity for future growth, and enhancing the quality of life in Muncie.

The Indiana Economic Development offered Waelz up to $5 million in conditional tax credits. Mayor Tyler and the redevelopment commission were on board until the company revealed what materials may leave residents at risk.

"When you go from a conversation that there is zero hazardous emissions and that's what everybody believed,” said Mayor Tyler.

Tyler noticed pieces of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) application spoke to levels of lead and mercury.

“The issue is again these types of emissions can’t in any way, shape, or form be safe for our children and our families. And if it is, you can't put a price on that life,” said Tyler.

It’s a price the mayor and some residents do not want to pay.

“I understand how dangerous pollution can be specifically for children. And as moms in the community, we have a great concern here,” said Muncie resident, Jacie Clark.

Clark says she expressed concern during the August 5 city council meeting, along with other residents who say they were blind-sighted by the proposal.

“We are very, very terrified about how this can affect the health of our children,” said Clark.

Mayor Tyler says there were multiple opportunities for residents to learn more but they had every right to attend the city council meeting with their concerns.

“To be perfectly honest there were a number of meetings, there was a public meeting, and there also was a public announcement,” said Tyler.

Waelz is currently still waiting on construction permits from IDEM.

But the mayor says the city has a chance to fight Heritage Environmental who oversees the project. According to their current building code ordinance and performance standards – a company shall not produce a hazard or endanger the people of Muncie.

In a statement, Heritage Environmental continues to ensure there is no threat to the public:

“The state-of-the-art facility we propose to build in Muncie will operate in a way that is designed to not just meet but exceed regulatory standards and pose no threat to public health or the environment. The zinc recycling process itself incentivizes capturing all emissions possible. the zinc oxide is contained in the particulate matter that is captured by the air handling equipment. the lower the emissions from the operation, the more profitable the plant.”

Meanwhile, Clark and others are asking for the city to prevent this project from moving forward.

"I would like them to rescind the ordinance and write a new ordinance that will not allow this company in. That will stop this from being built,” said Jacie Clark.

And Mayor Tyler is trying to ensure those in the city of Muncie are safe and sound.

"Everybody believed this might be a great stepping block. But nobody is going to believe or think that today because of the concerns on the hazardous emissions,” said Tyler.

With all the controversy residents believe there is a possibility for a silver lining. Tuesday, residents are holding a citizens forum at Muncie Central High School at 7 p.m. Wednesday, the city council is holding a committee meeting to consider overturning the funding package they provided the company. That meeting will be held at Cornerstone Center for the Arts in Muncie.

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