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Reynolds Metals Invests $50 Million to Recycle Abandoned Facility

BEING IN THE ALUMINUM business, Reynolds Metals Co. has always had a knack for recycling. But no one expected the company to recycle an entire plant to the tune of $50 million.

Gum Springs, five miles south of Arkadelphia, has for eight years held the dubious distinction of being the former site of a Reynolds aluminum plant. The Patterson plant in Clark County had employed as many as 500 workers but shut down completely in 1985.

The plant will reopen next month with 75 employees as a facility to recycle hazardous potliner material into a harmless ash, and Reynolds has even found a use for the stuff.

An agreement recently was reached allowing JTM Industries to market the by-product residue of the potliner treatment process for construction materials.

JTM, an Atlanta-based Union Pacific Corp. company, will construct an on-site service facility that will employ about 10 workers. The company specializes in coal combustion by-products management. Most of its clients are in the utility, co-generation, independent power and pulp and paper industries. JTM uses the waste products as ingredients in several construction-related products such as concrete blocks, road-base material and cement.

"We didn't really have this in the plan for this plant," says Jerry Newman, plant manager.

But the Patterson plant turned out to be a good fit for the new recycling operation. The renovation will cost Reynolds more than $50 million, plus about $13 million in additional costs to Reynolds and Arkansas Power & Light Co. for environmental management of the former operations.

Reynolds, based in Richmond, Va., built the Patterson facility near Gum Springs in 1953 as an aluminum "reduction" plant, where workers reduced the level of oxides in alumina ore until it became aluminum.

Aluminum is produced in large steel containers sometimes known as pots. The steel shells are lined with a protective carbon material called the potliner.

A Chemical Change

The potliners break down after several years and begin to resemble coal, but they also contain trace amounts of cyanide and fluoride. The presence of these toxins inspired the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list potliner as a hazardous material in 1988.

Reynolds responded with a patented process to render spent potliner harmless. Developed over seven to eight years at Reynolds' Hurricane Creek plant in Bauxite, the process uses heat to destroy the cyanides and also neutralizes the fluorides by bonding them with calcium.

The Aluminum Company of America, which has a facility in Bauxite, has purchased about 20 percent of the plant's capacity in order to neutralize its own spent potliner.

The hazardous materials will arrive by train from many of Reynolds' 25 plants in North America. It will be crushed and mixed with sand and limestone, then fed into a high-temperature rotary kiln. The leftover ash residue could be legally disposed in a landfill, but JTM will put it to better use.

Reynolds, which also has a cable plant and continuous rolling plant at Jones Mill, between Malvern and Hot Springs, says precautions will be taken to make handling of the toxic materials safe.

The materials will arrive by rail in special sealed containers. The crushing, mixing and storage will occur indoors in enclosed equipment. A total of 25 bag houses will catch particulates, and computers are programmed to shut down the process if the equipment malfunctions.

Reynolds has spent $2.5 million on an afterburner to destroy all remaining gaseous organic compounds, carbon monoxides and cyanide.
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Title Annotation:Reynolds Metals Co. reopens plant in Gum Springs, Arkansas
Author:Haman, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 19, 1993
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