Population – Millport, AL

Myth

“Nearly 15% of the [Millport] population has moved away from the area since the plant was put into operation….their population is now down to under 1,000.”

Fact

The claimant’s source of this “information,” City-Data, is what is known as a secondary source of information. Ideally, they would have used a primary source, like the US Census. City-Data collects data from other sources (primarily to sell ads to users of the site), but it provides no source for its Millport 2017 population estimate of 989. At best, this number is a guess based on criteria City-Data is not sharing.

Using a primary source of information, census.gov, we know that the population in 2000 was 1,160, and down to 1,049 by 2010 – a decrease of almost 10% — two years after SDR came online. Using US Census ACS estimates, the population in 2018 had increased about 1% to 1,061.  That is far different than the claim of a 15% population decrease since the SDR plant came online, using uncited secondary sources.

It should also be noted that the person making this claim of 15% population decrease is also manipulating the numbers by starting with the 2000 population of 1,160 — eight years before the Millport facility came online. Most of Millport’s population loss occurred before 2010. Without employers like SDR, it is entirely possible Millport residents would have had to move elsewhere for jobs.


Poverty – Millport, AL

Myth

“[Lamar County] is still a poverty-stricken area.”

Fact

The individual who made this claim cited City-Data as their source of “information.” City-Data is a secondary source of information, as opposed to a primary source like U.S. Census data.  Although City-Data appears to be collecting data from other sources (primarily to sell ads to users of the site), it provides no source for its estimate of economic data. However, for the sake of this argument, let’s assume City-Data’s data is accurate.

According to City-Data, the estimated median household income in Millport went from $26,458 in 2000 to $29,771 in 2017 – a 12% increase (the only years for which City-Data provides estimates). Estimated per capita income went from $12,822 in 2000 to $19,367 in 2017, a 51% increase. If these are accurate figures, that speaks well for those who hold jobs in Millport and their employers.

So is Millport really “poverty-stricken?”  No.  According to census.gov, as of 2018, the U.S. poverty rate was 13.1%. Poverty in non-metro areas such as Lamar County – a better comparison — averages 16.1% nationwide, and 17.4% in Lamar County.  As regrettable as any poverty is, four percentage points over the national average – and one percentage point over the rate for non-metro areas — would not be considered “poverty-stricken.”

And the best cure for poverty, of course, is jobs, especially good ones. WSP will create jobs that pay an average of $49,000, approximately 35% above the average wage for private industry in Cass County. (For comparison, the poverty rate in Indiana is 13.0% and 13.5% in Cass County, which is up significantly from a county rate of 8.5% in 2000.)

Despite this, the claimant insists on labeling the town of Millport “poverty-stricken.” The data clearly show the trends in Millport are definitely moving in the right direction and away from poverty.


Zinc Exposure

Myth

A recent post with a link to an article entitled “Zinc toxicology following particulate inhalation” is somehow relevant to possible community exposure to zinc as a result of the proposed WSP facility.

Fact

The article entitled “zinc toxicology following particulate inhalation” is a self-described “mini-review” of the literature on occupational (not public) exposure to zinc, an essential element with a Recommended Daily Allowance that humans need for normal growth and development. It is a three-page summary of selected articles and was published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (not the United States or European counterpart publications). The article focuses on excessive workplace exposures involving galvanizing iron and manufacturing brass, not zinc oxide from the Waelz kiln process. In other words, it does not tell us anything about community exposures to zinc.

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the typical ambient level of zinc in the air we breathe every day in the United States is less than 1 ug/m3 — more than 5,000 times below the allowable occupational exposure, but a daily exposure nonetheless. Worst-case, offsite exposures to any escaping zinc oxide (remember, WSP is trying to capture zinc, not release it) will be hundreds to thousands of times below levels to which workers may be exposed without adverse effect.

For more facts, please see WSP’s FAQ, or this information from ATSDR on zinc and public health, or this information from the National Institutes of Health on the health benefits of zinc.

Or if you really want to get into the weeds, check out this interesting article to see zinc’s potential role in fighting coronavirus.


Alzheimer’s – Millport, AL

Myth

“The rate of Alzheimer’s [in Lamar County? Millport?] has gone up by 46.6% during the last five years vs. the preceding five years.” …”I did a deeper dive into the numbers to see when the rate of change occurred, this would help me identify if whether the WSP factory could be a possible cause. That was the most alarming point yet. In isolating these two causes and looking at the total deaths from 2008 to 2012 and then from 2013 to 2017; Which (sic) is a 5-year pre-WSP impact and 5-year post WSP impact. You may say, we came online in 2008 so my base years of “Pre” are inaccurate, however as a Dr. I am sure you have to agree that the diseases we are talking about here are chronic (meaning they are a result of longer-term exposures) and not acute (happen immediately) so my analysis period is accurate, especially given the severity of the differences. So back to the differences, the data shows that during these periods of time the rate of death for lung disease increased by 36% while Alzheimer’s went up a staggering 52%The data shows that during these periods of time Alzheimer’s went up a staggering 52%.”

Fact

It is unfortunate that the individual who made this claim appears to raise deaths from Alzheimer’s as a scare tactic. Looking at the available data, the trends of Alzheimer-related deaths in Lamar County are consistent with Alabama state and national trends for the same period of time. To simply say that the increase in related deaths was caused by the existence of a facility confuses causation with correlation, a common logical fallacy.

Looking at the claim, the claimant first talked about the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, which would indicate new Alzheimer’s diagnoses. However, that statistic is not tracked in Alabama, so no such data exist. When pressed on their source of data, the claimant elaborated that they were speaking about the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s, which is tracked by state and county.

Here are the curves and trend lines for the state and county showing the number of deaths the claimant was looking at.  First, from the state Alabama Center for Health Statistics:

Here is the similar curve in Lamar County from the same source. (There are no data for Millport or other cities.)

From the figures, you can see that the number of Alzheimer’s related deaths in Alabama and Lamar County has been increasing at a consistent rate since 2000. We checked with Dr. Shen, the Director of the Division of Statistical Analysis for the Alabama Center for Health Statistics, regarding anything unusual about Alzheimer’s in Lamar County. Her response: “The number of deaths in Lamar county is relatively small; our data does not show a significant change over the last decade. In fact, Lamar County had slightly less deaths than expected from Alzheimer’s disease based on the rate for the rest of Alabama during this time frame.”

So how do these figures compare for the United States as a whole? According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US rate of death from dementia overall – the correct metric to use — more than doubled from 2000 to 2017.  “Overall, age-adjusted death rates for dementia increased from 30.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 66.7 in 2017.”

The nationwide increase in Alzheimer’s can be attributed to a number of factors. For one, people are living longer. As preventive medicine improves and fewer people are dying of cancer and heart-related issues, the risk of developing dementia, like Alzheimer’s, increases. In addition, doctors are getting better at identifying Alzheimer’s, dementia, and related illnesses, and writing them on the death certificate – the source of these mortality figures. In fact, dementia is now the leading cause of death in the UK; it’s currently #6 in the US.

Another important reason for the abrupt increase is that in 2011, the National Institutes of Health updated its diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s and dementia for the first time in 27 years. It significantly broadened the definition of Alzheimer’s and thus the way it is diagnosed and recorded in health records.  An increase in the number of reported cases would be typically expected to follow such a major change.

What’s the takeaway message? The entire United States is experiencing a significant increase in Alzheimer’s and related illnesses that is mostly related to an increase in life expectancy, and recent changes in how Alzheimer’s is diagnosed and reported. To try to relate Alzheimer’s to a facility – whether WSP or any other – is simple fearmongering, unscientific, and irresponsible.


Hazardous Waste Incinerator

Myth

Heritage Environmental Services has secret plans to build a hazardous waste incinerator next to the zinc processing facility.

Fact

Heritage Environmental Services will not build a hazardous waste incinerator in Cass County. In fact, there are a number of reasons why siting, permitting and constructing a new hazardous waste incinerator in the U.S. today is not feasible. Any assertion to the contrary – on Facebook or anywhere else – is simply fear mongering and baseless dissemination of misinformation.


Mercury and Lead Particulate Matter

Myth

Particulate matter containing mercury and lead will escape from the facility.

Fact

Concerns regarding particulate matter are misplaced. Lead and mercury are considered trace elements in the process and not present at levels that cause harm to human health and the environment. The particulate matter actually represents the zinc product of interest to the operation and many enhanced measures will be implemented to capture as much product as is feasible – our business depends on it.

For example, various structures will be under negative pressure, the facility will be outfitted with a number of capture points such that the material can be re-introduced into the process, virtually all operations are conducted indoors and upgraded bags will be used in the product collectors for greater capture efficiency.

While no process captures 100% of emissions, the WSP facility will be designed to comply with environmental laws and regulations and meet or exceed permitted emission limits. Permitted air emission limits are set at levels protective of human health and the environment, with a large margin of safety built in.


Mercury Emissions/TRI Data – Millport, AL

Myth

The WSP facility will emit a dangerous amount to mercury into the community, as evidenced by EPA TRI data from the Millport SDR facility.

Fact

The question of mercury emissions has been raised in the context of data from Zinc Nacional’s SDR subsidiary operating in Millport, AL found on US EPA’s TRI website. It is important to remember that permitted air emission limits are set at levels protective of human health and the environment, with a large margin of safety built in.

The data in the EPA’s TRI study does not reflect actual emissions. It is an overestimation calculated using data that is over a decade old. Updated data has been submitted to the EPA—which is expected to be reflected on the EPA website sometime in late-April 2020—will show that the Alabama SDR facility is, in fact, far outside of the nation’s top emitters of mercury.

The expected mercury emissions at the proposed WSP facility, as reflected in the pending air permit application, will be on the order 200 lbs. (not counting the effect of controls), which according to IDEM, is significantly below the emission levels that trigger regulatory concerns.


Zinc and COVID-19

Myth

Zinc exposure could increase susceptibility and instances of COVID-19 in Cass County.

Fact

Zinc is an essential element, meaning humans need it for our successful growth and development. It is commonly found in most medicine cabinets as an ingredient in cosmetics, sunscreen, diaper rash cream, and throat lozenges.

We’re now learning that zinc may also be critical to stopping the spread of and treating those affected by COVID-19.

Just this week, President Donald Trump highlighted zinc during a daily COVID-19 briefing when discussing finding success in prescribing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with zinc to treat patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Although more scientific evidence is needed to show the full effectiveness of this treatment, it does appear promising. To learn more about how zinc blocks the replication of the virus in human cells, Los Angeles-based emergency room physician Dr. Anthony Cardillo explains how and discusses the results he and doctors all over the world have witnessed here.


Palmerton

Myth

The Palmerton, PA facility is “comparable” to the proposed WSP facility in Cass County.

Fact

Comparing the two facilities is apples and oranges for the following reasons:

  1. Since the mid-80s through today, Palmerton has produced lead chloride in addition to crude zinc oxide at the Palmerton facility. This is NOT an operation that will occur at WSP, nor does it occur at SDR in Millport. Palmerton reportedly has had issues with selling and otherwise managing this material on-site over the past several years which appears to have resulted in fugitive and baghouse emission issues and the call by EPA for ATSDR assistance.
  2. The ATSDR involvement was a direct result of lead concerns associated with the lead chloride operation; not EAF dust recycling.
  3. Palmerton began recycling EAF dust in the mid-80s and with upwards of five kilns. WSP ultimately will have two.
  4. Palmerton is a Superfund site, having been listed in 1983. It was listed as the result of 80+ years of zinc smelting by two large zinc smelters, East Plant and West Plant built and operated by New Jersey Zinc Company beginning in 1898. The two zinc smelters operated until 1981; the Clean Air Act wasn’t passed until 1970 so much of that time the facility operated before the advent of modern air pollution control equipment. Additionally, the remaining slag from the former zinc smelting operation was placed at the foot of Blue Mountain in the East Plant, resulting in a 33 million ton, 2.5-mile-long slag pile that served as continuing source of metal-containing runoff. These areas have been the subject of remediation efforts beginning in 1983. It’s important to highlight that there are no byproducts such as slag from the WSP process. The two products from the process are sold to third parties and shipped off-site.
  5. Palmerton entered into a multi-media consent decree in 1995 as a result of having maintained material such as EAF dust and CZO outside and alleged subpar air pollution controls. The civil penalty issued was $5.6 million.

Secretive Process

Myth

Cass County and WSP are conducting the process in “secret” out of the public eye.

Fact

It’s important to remember that we are at the beginning and not the end of the process. What may appear to some as “secretive” is in fact a matter of the company and County engaging in due diligence. For example, when WSP began the site selection process, it asked the economic redevelopment entities representing the final slate of sites in multiple states to enter into non-disclosure agreements. This was not to be secret, but rather to be able to openly discuss the project with County representatives and share important but proprietary, nonpublic information with them. Once WSP determined Cass County to be its preferred site, there were no restrictions on discussing the project, as evidenced by a number of public meetings where this project has been discussed – including three meetings just last week where a WSP representative was there to answer any questions posed by the public. Making sure concerns are addressed is important to us. We are committed to continuing this practice as the process continues and the County continues to hold public meetings on the project.


SDR Settlement

We have received a number of questions regarding a 2016 settlement agreement between SDR, a facility owned by Zinc Nacional, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Below is the history and the facts surrounding the settlement, as well as how WSP will operate:

  • When the Alabama facility was originally constructed (2007), before Zinc Nacional’s ownership of SDR (2009), the building in which the iron concentrate product was held was not required by regulators to be certified as a containment building. Years later, during Zinc Nacional’s subsequent ownership, the regulatory agencies changed their position and determined that the building must be certified as a containment building. As part of a global settlement, SDR upgraded the building and obtained the required certification. The same building at WSP will be certified as a containment building from the outset.
  • SDR initially was registered as a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (“CESQG”) because materials from maintenance activities, such as used bricks, that were returned to the kiln were not counted towards the amount of material generated on-site. SDR began counting this material and changed its registration to Large Quantity Generator (“LQG”). The WSP facility will register as an LQG from the outset.
  • Under the original owners of the Alabama facility, certain one-time notifications were not made. These missed notifications were noted during Zinc Nacional’s ownership, and SDR made the necessary notifications. All required notifications will be made at the outset by WSP for its Cass County facility.
  • During the inspection, some material generated on-site destined to be fed to the kiln was alleged to have not been labeled properly. SDR corrected the label to the inspector’s satisfaction during the inspection.
  • During the same inspection, a box of fluorescent light bulbs was found to be open and the agency did not agree with the placement of an aerosol can crusher. Both of these issues were promptly resolved: the box was closed and labeled, and the crusher moved to an agreed upon location.
  • There was a process error regarding the paperwork for one shipment of refractory for off-site disposal.
  • Collectively, SDR settled these issues without litigation or any admission of wrongdoing for $80,000 in December 2016. The original inspection occurred in 2014.

Zinc Recycling Facility, Not Smelting or Refinery

Myth

WSP’s facility in Cass county will be a smelting or refinery facility.

Fact

Our facility will be a zinc recycling facility, just as we’ve shared in the past. It is not a refinery or smelting facility (meaning we won’t be feeding mined ore or scrap metal nor dealing with molten metal), rather it is classified as a high temperature metal recovery facility under environmental law. The list of Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes is not perfect. It does not have a code for zinc recycling or high temperature metal recovery. “Secondary smelting and refining of nonferrous metals” is the closest category even though it does not describe the zinc recycling process that WSP will employ. The NAICS code of 331492, “zinc dust reclaiming,” is closer.  In the application the Cass County Citizen Coalition posted, we are required to select SIC/NAICS codes developed for use by the Department of Commerce (“DOC”) we believe most closely fits our business. DOC uses this system to track business activity and collect business data for macroeconomic analysis. These codes are broad categories and not designed to be specific to every type of business or industrial process in existence. We believe our zinc recycling facility best fits into this broad classification when compared to others. This does not change the purpose of function of our facility or the classification and requirements under applicable environmental permitting programs.

Here is the full wording of SIC 3341

Industry: 3341—Secondary Smelting and Refining of Nonferrous Metals

Establishments primarily engaged in recovering nonferrous metals and alloys from new and used scrap and dross or in producing alloys from purchased refined metals. This industry includes establishments engaged in both the recovery and alloying of precious metals. Plants engaged in the recovery of tin through secondary smelting and refining, as well as by chemical processes, are included in this industry. Establishments primarily engaged in assembling, sorting, and breaking up scrap metal, without smelting and refining, are classified in Wholesale Trade, Industry 5093.

  • Aluminum extrusion ingot, secondary
  • Aluminum smelting and refining, secondary
  • Antimonial lead refining, secondary
  • Babbitt metal smelting and refining, secondary
  • Brass smelting and refining, secondary
  • Bronze smelting and refining, secondary
  • Copper smelting and refining, secondary
  • Detinning of cans
  • Detinning of scrap
  • Germanium refining, secondary
  • Gold smelting and refining, secondary
  • Ingots, nonferrous: smelting and refining-secondary
  • Iridium smelting and refining, secondary
  • Lead smelting and refining, secondary
  • Magnesium smelting and refining, secondary
  • Nickel smelting and refining, secondary
  • Nonferrous metal smelting and refining, secondary
  • Platinum-group metals smelting and refining, secondary
  • Precious metal smelting and refining, secondary
  • Recovering and refining of nonferrous metals
  • Recovery of silver from used photographic film
  • Secondary refining and smelting of nonferrous metals
  • Selenium refining, secondary
  • Silver smelting and refining, secondary
  • Solder (base metal), pig and ingot secondary
  • Tin smelting and refining, secondary
  • Zinc dust, reclaimed
  • Zinc smelting and refining, secondary

NAICS is the successor to SIC codes.

331492 – Secondary Smelting, Refining, and Alloying of Nonferrous Metal (except Copper and Aluminum)

This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in (1) alloying purchased nonferrous metals and/or (2) recovering nonferrous metals from scrap. Establishments in this industry make primary forms (e.g., bar, billet, bloom, cake, ingot, slab, slug, wire) using smelting or refining processes.

Cross-References. Establishments primarily engaged in:

  • Recovering aluminum and aluminum alloys from scrap and/or alloying purchased aluminum–are classified in U.S. Industry 331314, Secondary Smelting and Alloying of Aluminum;
  • Sorting, breaking up, and wholesaling scrap metal without also smelting or refining–are classified in Industry 423930, Recyclable Material Merchant Wholesalers;
  • Recovering nonferrous metals from scrap and rolling, drawing, or extruding shapes in integrated facilities–are classified in U.S. Industry 331491, Nonferrous Metal (except Copper and Aluminum) Rolling, Drawing, and Extruding;
  • Operating facilities where commingled recyclable materials, such as paper, plastics, used beverage cans, and metals, are sorted into distinct categories without also smelting or refining–are classified in Industry 562920, Materials Recovery Facilities; and
  • Recovering copper and copper alloys from scrap and making primary forms, and/or alloying purchased copper–are classified in Industry 331420, Copper Rolling, Drawing, Extruding, and Alloying.

NAICS Index Entries for 331492 in 2007, 2012, and 2017

  • Alloying purchased nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper)
  • Detinning scrap (e.g., cans)
  • Germanium recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Gold recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Ingot, nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper), secondary smelting and refining
  • Iridium recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Lead recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Magnesium recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Metal powder and flake nonferrous (except aluminum, copper) made from purchased metal
  • Nickel recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Nonferrous alloys (except aluminum, copper) made from purchased nonferrous metals
  • Nonferrous alloys (except aluminum, copper) made in integrated secondary smelting and alloying plants
  • Nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper) secondary smelting and refining
  • Paste, nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper), made from purchased metal
  • Platinum recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Powder, nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper), made from purchased metal
  • Precious metals recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Recovering and refining of nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper) from scrap
  • Recovering silver from used photographic film or X-ray plates
  • Refining nonferrous metals and alloys (except aluminum, copper), secondary
  • Secondary refining of nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper)
  • Secondary smelting of nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper)
  • Selenium recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Silver recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Silver recovering from used photographic film or X-ray plates
  • Smelting and refining of nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper), secondary
  • Smelting nonferrous metals (except aluminum, copper), secondary
  • Superalloys, nonferrous based, made from purchased metals or scrap
  • Tin recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals
  • Tungsten carbide powder made by metallurgical process
  • Zinc dust reclaiming
  • Zinc recovering from scrap and/or alloying purchased metals

WSP Media Contact

Ali Alavi
(317) 334-7067
aalavi@heritage-enviro.com