Hi-tech recycling plant to be built in Hagerstown

October 28, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

HAGERSTOWN -- Ground was broken yesterday for a $200 million waste-paper recycling plant heralded as the largest capital project in the history of this Western Maryland city.

The 200,000-square-foot plant, billed as state-of-the-art, is being built by the Black Clawson Co. of New York and will produce high-quality recycled paper pulp when it is completed in about 18 months, said Carl Landegger, company chairman.

"We are building a paper recycling plant on the cutting edge of scientific technology. It will be the most efficient, environmentally friendly recycling plant in the world," Mr. Landegger asserted before an audience of about 130 people who included federal and state officials, Western Maryland lawmakers, Washington County commissioners, Hagerstown officials and representatives of U.S. paper companies.

More than 250 jobs will be created during construction, company and local officials said. After it is operating, the plant will provide 90 full-time and 10 part-time jobs, with full-time salaries ranging from about $20,000 a year to $45,000 a year.

"Clearly, it's a big project for Hagerstown, but also for the state HTC of Maryland," said Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager. "It strengthens a strong economy and further diversifies a diversified economy that we have."

Work on the plant is beginning at a boom time for the recycling industry, which had languished during the past few years. Both the resurgent U.S. economy and demand for paper from small industrialized nations such as Korea and Taiwan have driven prices up, both for scrap paper and finished products.

In addition, the market for recycled paper has grown because many states have laws requiring government agencies to buy paper made of recycled fibers and requiring newspapers to use recycled paper.

Indeed, said Mr. Landegger, demand is outpacing supply.

The plant, to be called First Urban Fiber, is the "most advanced paper recycling plant in the world," said Elizabeth A. Cotsworth, deputy director of the Office of Solid Waste of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She said she was unaware of any other paper recycling plant with comparable pollution controls, including its own water treatment plant and high-tech equipment.

High-tech equipment will allow the company to produce a

commercial pulp that is 90 percent fiber and 10 percent water -- nearly identical to the virgin product. The company said its process will not use chlorine to bleach the pulp. Chlorinated compounds used in bleaching paper produce dioxins, a class of highly toxic chemicals that the EPA has been striving to reduce in the pulp and paper industries.

The plant is being built on 15 acres on the southern edge of Hagerstown, near the city's Municipal Stadium and next to a CSX rail spur. The plant will draw 5 million gallons of water each day from the adjacent Antietam Creek and return all but about 10 percent of the water after it has been filtered and cleaned by the company's 60,000-square-foot water treatment plant, officials said.

The project has been in the works for about three years. The Maryland Energy Financing Administration sold $159.8 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to finance the facility and the company's partners contributed about $40 million to the project.

The privately held Black Clawson Co. describes itself as one of the world's largest designers and manufacturers of machinery used in paper preparation, pulp mills and waste-paper recycling.

Black Clawson's affiliates operate smaller pulp mills in Canada and Alabama. The Hagerstown plant will be the company's largest.

The company said it chose Hagerstown after a search that included an area stretching from New York City to about 100 miles south of Washington. "The local political establishment here made us feel more welcome than anybody else did," Mr. Landegger said.

Black Clawson's partners in the venture are Simons Engineering Inc. of Canada; a Canadian division of Guy F. Atkinson Co.; and Sea Crest Industries, a civil, structural and architectural contractor.

Pencor Inc., a Baltimore-based environmental project development firm, was instrumental in the plant's conception and development.

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