Steel Dynamics Cuts Green Deal to Speed Permit for Texas Mill

One of the largest U.S. steelmakers struck a deal with environmentalists that will help endangered whooping cranes and encourage regulators to approve a pending pollution permit for the company’s new $1.9 billion mill near the Texas coast.

Steel Dynamics Inc. agreed to create a special marsh –- known as a constructed wetland –- to filter the mill’s wastewater beyond what’s required in the state’s environmental permit, according to a joint statement by the company and The Aransas Project, a prominent green group that was pressing regulators to deny the permit.

The manufacturer’s Sinton mill northwest of Corpus Christi is slated to open in mid-2021 and will add at least 200,000 tons of steel a quarter. The timing is significant with the recovering economy driving tight steel supplies and pushing prices to all-time highs.

Steel Dynamics Cuts Green Deal to Speed Permit for Texas Mill

U.S. steel plants cut production in the early stages of the coronavirus and are still operating below pre-pandemic levels. Steel consumers expect the new mill to alleviate some of the demand worries.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is now expected to approve a permit to discharge treated wastewater into a creek that flows into coastal habitat abutting the winter refuge of the world’s last migratory flock of whooping cranes. The majestic five-foot-tall cranes battled back from near-extinction in the 1940s, when just 20 birds were discovered at what is now the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, not far from the new steel plant.

The constructed wetlands treatment system will harness the natural filtering capabilities of coastal marshes as a “polishing step” to purify the plant’s wastewater stream before it empties into Chiltipin Creek and Copano Bay. Environmentalists had opposed the project’s permit on fears the planned discharge contained too much metal.

“Scientific literature has shown that constructed wetlands can remove 50% or more of metals in wastewater, depending upon the metal being evaluated,” the company and environmentalists said in the statement. Effluent testing will be conducted to make sure the system is working as designed, they said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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