County OKs chemical plant

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YERINGTON -- A Mound House tantalum powder production plant was approved Thursday by Lyon County commissioners.

Pacific Ores Metals & Chemicals/Niotan Inc. will use an existing 84,000-square-foot building on a 10-acre site in Comstock Industrial Park.

In agreeing to issue a permit, commissioners said the detailed information provided to the board by Niotan helped alleviate concerns that have been raised regarding the highly flammable process.

Central Lyon County Fire District officials added their support and said they are comfortable with the volunteer department's ability to respond to potential incidents.

Fire Prevention Officer Mary Ellen Holley said the interlocal agreement the Central Lyon County Fire Department has with the State Fire Marshal's office makes the local department responsible for the plan review of the facility, sprinkler and alarm systems.

"We will be involved with them from step one through the entire process, just making sure they are meeting code requirements. They have already shown they are going up and beyond what the code is requiring," she told the board.

Niotan Vice President John Crawley said all employees will go through two months of training prior to the opening of the plant. They will also have their own trained employee hazardous materials response team.

"If everything is done correctly we will not ever have a problem. We have a great deal of interest in making sure everything is run properly because of the value of our material," Crawley said.

Some residents, however, remained opposed to the application. Industrial Park business owner Bob Foster said the mandated 45-day limit on the hearing process was too short for all concerns to be addressed for such a complex process. Stating he was not against Niotan's operation, he suggested it would be better to locate the plant in a more isolated area.

Rick Northcutt, whose business and residence is adjacent to the plant, agreed, stating, "It is not the business. It is the location of the business. Everyone involved has good intentions, but accidents can happen."

Nothcutt also complained the commissioners were basing their decision on information the general public did not have access to, but Assistant District Attorney Steve Rye said the informational manual, containing company processing techniques, was distributed to the board by Niotan on the condition it was not for public review.

In support, Commissioner David Fulstone noted, "We don't have to disclose a business' propriety information. Our main obligation is to see that a business is going to operate in the safest manner possible. We have the information to make a decision and our questions have been satisfactorily answered."


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