Alma Plant: No plans to dump millions of gallons of wastewater into South Fork

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Castle Vineyards

The former poultry processing plant became a metal recycling center in 2008.

By Randy Arrington

ALMA — The owner of Recycle Management says he has no intention of dumping up to 1 million gallons of treated wastewater daily into the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Jody Salyards told PageValleyNews.com last week that his application to reissue the state permit that would allow such actions was simply to “keep his options open” for the future of the Alma property the metal recycling plant sits on.

“This permit has been issued since the 1970s,” Salyards said. “We do not discharge under it, even though we can.”

The Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit would allow “the release of treated industrial wastewater/stormwater at a rate of 1 million gallons per day into the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Page County in the South Fork/Stony Run watershed,” according to the public notice issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The permit has been applied for and reissued by DEQ for the Alma plant site every five years for nearly a half century.

“The DEQ staff said they had received more than 60 calls about this,” Salyards said last week. “We’ve owned the property for about 14 years. This is the third time we’ve applied for this, and it’s the first time we’ve seen this type of reaction.”

The owner of the Alma recycling facility, whose main office sits in Harrisonburg, said the plant submits monthly reporting  of “zero discharge” to the DEQ. 

The $4,000 to $5,000 cost to renew the application every five years pales in comparison to the funding needed to upgrade the facility to treat up to 1 million gallons of wastewater per day. Currently, the discharge pipes are cemented shut, according to Salyards.

“To meet new standards, I believe it would be a sizable investment… maybe $20 million or more,” Salyards said. 

The metal recycling plant owner said he wanted to continue renewing the permit because they are not easy to get.

“We didn’t know if some time in the future someone might need it because they don’t just hand out these permits,” Salyards said. “They are not easily permitted. We wanted to keep an economic opportunity open there.”

Dr. Morgan Phenix, chairman of the Page County Board of Supervisors, aired concerns over the lack of a public hearing in the application process in a Jan.18 letter to DEQ. He also noted the present state of wastewater treatment equipment at the site and that “the project description in the public notice fails to enumerate any pollutant other than those typical to poultry processing.”

Prior to being a metal recycling plant, the Alma site served as a poultry processing center for WLR foods and Pilgrim’s Pride for several decades.

DEQ notes in the public notice for the permit application that, “The permit will limit the following pollutants to amounts that protect water quality: organic matter, solids, chlorine, bacteria, ammonia and pH. Industrial solids from the treatment process will be stored in on-site lagoons.”

DEQ is accepting public comment on the draft permit application through Feb. 10. Comments should be made in writing and include specific concerns.

Anyone wishing to comment on Recycle Management’s permit application may send comments to: Jason Dameron, 4411 Early Rd. (or P.O. Box 3000), Harrisonburg, Va. 22801 — or email comments to [email protected]

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