VIDEO: Veolia kiln ready for Arkansas road trip to Gum Springs

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

PORT OF CROSSETT, Arkansas — A gargantuan kiln has made its one-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from northern Italy and is now on dry ground following a two-day trip up the Mississippi and Ouachita rivers. Its final destination is Veolia North America’s hazardous waste treatment plant in Gum Springs.

We traveled Monday to Port of Crossett to document the 300-ton package that on Wednesday will begin the final, albeit no less arduous, leg of its trek to Clark County. The kiln itself is 16 feet in diameter and 59 feet long. Combine the entire hauling package — including the two trucks that’ll be used to tow and push the thing — and you’ve got a package 226 feet long and standing 20 feet tall. It took us 2 1/2 minutes to walk around the entire setup. Watch the video below.

Working on dry ground at the Ashley County port, located just south of where the Ouachita and Saline rivers meet, a crew from the Memphis-based Barnhart Crane & Rigging busied themselves Monday making final adjustments to the highly specialized hydraulic mover on which it will be pulled and pushed. Minding the posted speed limit, our visit to the port took a little over 2 hours driving time, but this crew — being escorted by Arkansas Highway Police, Arkansas Department of Transportation and Entergy — will spend five days zig-zagging along state highways in a northwesterly fashion at speeds of no more than 20 mph.

The state agencies and Entergy will aid the crew with maneuvering, traffic control and the raising or removal of countless low-hanging utility lines that will be encountered. The move is planned to start at 8 a.m. Wednesday, May 10.

Once the kiln reaches its final destination on Monday, May 15, it’ll sit alongside two massive scrubbers recently hauled in; the scrubbers “polish” air inside the kiln before it exits the stack. Combined with those Swedish-built scrubbers, the complete setup “will be the most modern, the cleanest burning and the most technologically advanced kiln in the world,” Britt Scheer, director of facility affairs at VNA’s Gum Springs site, said in a telephone interview. The old kilns will be shut down, cleaned and left onsite.

Contrary to what has been posted on social media about what the kiln will burn, Scheer said there are “no plans to process lithium car batteries. It’s not going to be used for that.” Instead, he said, the kiln will simply replace two others the facility uses to incinerate waste transported to Veolia. “We’re taking complex materials and breaking them down to their base elements that are stable and safe to dispose of,” Scheer explained. Ash from that process, he added, is stabilized and put into a landfill near the treatment facility.

Asked about the air quality permit, Scheer said Veolia asked for and received a permit from the state Division of Environmental Quality that meets the “highest level of compliance” set forth by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “Veolia has the technology to meet the strictest air standards,” Scheer said.

Scheer said the company is aiming for “net-zero” water and electricity discharge with the new thermal treatment plant. Rainwater will be used “as much as possible” at the plant, and steam from a boiler will generate half the electricity required to power the plant; there are also plans to add a 35-acre solar farm on site “to handle the rest,” Scheer added. “The entire facility will run off its own power.”

Construction on the new treatment plant is slated to finish sometime in late 2024, followed by six months of vendor commissioning and employee training, Scheer said.

— The Arkadelphian’s Leslie Kent contributed to this article with photographs and reporting

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