Largest industrial development in Clark County history
By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian
GUM SPRINGS — Expansion is on the horizon for a world-renowned facility that treats hazardous waste in Clark County.
Veolia North America announced Wednesday that its Gum Springs Operations will be home to what the company is calling a “state-of-the-art” thermal hazardous waste treatment facility. The plants will replace two existing natural-gas-powered plants that were installed 50 years ago to treat spent pot liner for Reynolds.
“Once completed, it will be the most modern, environmentally efficient treatment plant of its kind in the world,” the France-based company said in a press release. The goal is to be the “best integrated waste recycling, treatment and disposal facility in North America.”
With a projected completion date of 2024, the company anticipates adding 100 employees to its current workforce of about 130.
The plant will be the first in North America to use its own waste heat to generate enough power to meet up to 70% of its total power needs, reducing emissions from the plant and making the project “completely carbon-neutral.” The new air scrubber equipment is said to be able to eliminate more than 99% of pollutants “through efficient thermal destruction” will keep air around the plant clean and safeguard the health of nearby communities.
The new plant will boast features not found at any other Veolia’s North American facilities, including a kiln with 10 separate feed points that allow for high-volume treatment of difficult waste streams simultaneously. It will have the ability to treat and reuse effluents in the process, eliminating discharge.
Additionally, the company says, the plant will be designed to treat waste that contain high halogen content, such as ozone-depleting refrigerants, and render the safe for the environment.
Veolia is also considering the installation of a solar farm on the site that would generate an additional 14 megawatts of power to run the facility.
About 150 people, including state and local officials, were in attendance for the announcement. Veolia CEO Fred Van Heems flew in from France for the event to make remarks. During his comments, Van Heems announced that Veolia will be awarding $5,000 annually in college scholarships to two Clark County seniors planning to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and math. Bob Cappadona, CEO of Veolia North America, was also in attendance and spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony.
Kevin Jester, chair of the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County, said at the event that Veolia’s $600 million investment in the Gum Springs plant is “the largest single planned industrial development ever in Clark County.”
Recounting the history of the facility from the time Reynolds Metal Co. purchased the property to Veolia’s acquisition of the plant, Jester said Wednesday’s news is a “continuation of what started here 70 years ago” and gives a new generation of Clark Countians to live and work here. Veolia “made a strategic decision to make this large investment right here,” Jester added. “I believe they saw value in Clark County, value in our natural resources and our manmade resources.”
Veolia’s Gum Springs Operations is among 350 of the company’s locations in the U.S. and Canada. Veolia purchased the facility in 2020; its capital improvements, staff expansions and generated revenue is expected to exceed $1 billion in economic impact over a five-year period, according to the company.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also spoke at the event, calling the expansion a “reflection” of both the company and Clark County’s growth efforts. “When you enacted the 1/2-cent [economic development] sales tax, you showed you are willing to grow,” Hutchinson said. “That’s an investment in the next generation.”
Once the new facility becomes operational it will be operated at full capacity because, the company said, the U.S. currently does not have the capacity to meet the demand for thermal treatment of hazardous waste.