Veolia breaks ground on $600M expansion

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.”

Officials from Veolia and the state of Arkansas pose for a groundbreaking ceremony photo. Pictured, from left, is Kevin Jester, Arkadelphia Economic Development Corporation; Bob Cappadona, President and CEO of Veolia North America’s Environmental Solutions and Services Group; Peter McMillan, United Steel Workers Union; Fred Van Heems, Veolia North America President and CEO; Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; and Yoon Chae, Veolia North America Senior Vice President
| Joel Phelps/The Arkadelphian

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.

Veolia CEO Fred Van Heems, left, shakes hands with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. | Joel Phelps/The Arkadelphian

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.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson addresses an audience gathered at Veolia. In the background are two thermal air scrubbers that will be part of the company’s $600 million expansion. | Joel Phelps/The Arkadelphian

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.

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5 replies »

  1. The article does not make it clear whether to new operation will add 70 employees or 200 employees. That is a big difference to the county.

    • The number they’re giving is 100, but we all know what happened to the 170 number Hostess promised… The weak EDCCC let them knock it down to 150, so don’t expect there to actually be 100 jobs. The terminology in the press release is “more than 100 full-time jobs” so keep that in mind if they try to inflate the number with part-time jobs down the road. I don’t trust the elites anymore and most Clark County residents probably agree; we’ve been lied to and mislead so many times.

      • Amelia I read rather well and can see clearly that the article NOW reads
        ” adding 100 employees” . Apparently the editor was concerned enough about clarity that he updated the story after my comment.

    • Quite possibly. I’m always critical of these weird ideas Liberals have for climate change, because they usually don’t work. COMPLETELY carbon neutral!? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on leftist pipe dreams, we need to vote out the RINOs and return to fiscally responsible governance.

      I’m also concerned that allowing a landfill to accept waste beyond its class could cause a public safety crisis. I don’t see any valid reason why we shouldn’t upgrade the class first. When you cut corners, people get hurt, and it’s clear the elites in charge only care about wealthy CEOs, not the People, so I don’t trust them AT ALL! For all we know, they could just be trying to skirt safety regulations.