Q&A with SungEel representatives, state and local officials
Following up on WNEG’s ongoing coverage of the SungEel battery recycling facility scheduled to be located at Hayestone Brady Industrial Park, and responding to a number of questions and concerns expressed to the station by residents, as well as our own research, WNEG News submitted questions regarding the proposed SungEel facility to government agencies, fire fighting officials, SungEel company representatives and economic development leaders regarding the proposed facility.
Today and into next week, WNEG will relay to our listeners the questions asked, and the answers supplied.
WNEG, noting that it was announced earlier this year that groundbreaking on the Hayestone Brady facility would be held in March, asked what has caused the delay, and if there is a new expected timeline for groundbreaking, construction, and the plant being in operation.
A SungEel representative replied, stating, “Since we first selected Stephens County as our Georgia home, we have been working to upgrade the equipment we will be using in this location. This has led to the delay of our Building drawings. Even though our project seems to be moving slowly, we are making progress and moving forward everyday. We hope to announce a groundbreaking time once our general contractor is selected.”
Stephens COunty Development Authority President and CEO Brittany Ivey updated WNEG on that timeline earlier this week, saying that groundbreaking has now been scheduled.
WNEG noted that, In July of 2022, an explosion was reported at SungEel HiTech’s Hungary plant that, according to media reports, seriously injured one worker and left three others with minor injuries, and asked what caused the explosion, and whether it was an incident that could occur at the Hayestone Brady facility.
A SungEel representative responded, saying the Georgia facility is different from the one in Hungary. In the United States, equipment is being upgraded to vacuum-type vessels instead of positive pressure type vessels, which will not be used in US facilities. He stated that the accident in Hungary was caused by misoperation by an equipment installation company during test operations. Stephens County Development Authority President and CEO Brittany Ivy added that, in conversations between SungEel company officials and herself, it was explained that the facility was not in operation as far as battery recycling at the time, and he explosion was caused by a gas leak due to faulty equipment installation by an outside vendor prior to the opening of the facility.
Recapping our earlier coverage, in August of 2022, WNEG reported on Governor Brian Kemp’s announcement that SungEel Recycling Park Georgia, LLC – a subsidiary of the Korea-based SunEel HiTech Co., LLC, would be investing more than $37 Million in a new recycling facility to be located in Haystone Brady Industrial Park, bringing 104 new jobs to the county, including positions for technicians, operators, administrative and sales staff. No management positions were mentioned.
Stephens County Development Authority Chairman Brian Akin noted at the time that the SCDA had been working with SungEel for eight months at that time, learning about the company and its processes.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development joined Kemp in the enthusiastic welcome of the SungEel facility, in line with the state’s official interest in the electronic vehicle industry.
“SungEel is a company at the cutting edge of sustainable technology, and we believe SungEel’s proximity to other members of Georgia’s electric mobility ecosystem will lead to amazing success,” GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson is quoted as saying at the time.
The following month, in September of 2022, WNEG News received answers from the SungEel Strategic Business Team and Safety and Environment Team to a set of 14 questions WNEG had submitted to be answered by SungEel officials.
Among the points made by the SungEel team was that there would not be an incinerator used at the facility.
“There will not be natural gas combustion at the facility,” the team reported. They confirmed that the recycling process they intend to use at the Haystone Brady facility is the same process they have used for many years.
“Our process is the same since 2008, but the equipment has been upgraded,” they stated.
When asked if there would be any pollutants from the facility, they responded, “This process is fully compliant with Federal and State permitting regulations. The air permit will be in hand prior to starting operation. Once the permit application is submitted, it will be available to the public.”
Regarding concerns over fire hazards, the team stated, “We met with local fire personnel, the EMA director and the County’s commercial building inspector to answer any questions they had. There is no special equipment needed to extinguish fires at our facility. We are committed to working with local fire and emergency management to ensure that everyone is prepared. We will have our own state of the art fire suppressant systems in place that satisfy all building codes and insurance requirements and have asked the fire personnel to work with us every six months to train our employees in fire precaution procedures. This six-month training is required at all our other facilities.”
A full transcript of those questions, and the company’s answers, are provided below.
In February of this year, WNEG News reported that SungEel had expressed the expectation to break ground on the Haystone Brady facility the following month, in March, 2023.
In May of this year, WNEG News reported on the ongoing process of the Stephens County Development Authority’s work with SungEel to finalize the company’s Memorandum of Understanding with the SCDA.
“SCDA President and CEO Britanny Ivey said, at the time, “We are in negotiations still for our MOU with SungEel. That is just our Memorandum of Understanding that includes our incentives, and their commitment to the community as far as job creation and the timeline for that, and the timeline for their investments. So they’ve already signed (an MOU) with the state, and its just easier for the state and for the company and the community if those match.”
Ivey added, “One thing that has changed since 2017 when our last major international company came here, which was NIFCO, KTW, is that then, we were not really selling land to get companies to come to our community, we were giving it away. With SungEel, we’ve asked for full price for the land in Haystone Brady, so that’s a big deal. Right now, if the MOU stays the same, it will put them on the tax digest within the first two years of operation here, which is great for our community.”
Ivey said that the additional jobs the project will bring to the community is also a benefit to the Stephens County community, and mentioned that the company has “higher than average wages.”
Full transcript of WNEG questions to SungEel in September 2022, and the answers supplied by SungEel officials.
WNEG: Will there be an incinerator involved in breaking down the batteries scheduled for recycling?
SungEel: “No. There will be an electric-powered dryer. There will not be natural gas combustion at the facility. The process operates without combustion. We receive the batteries, dismantle the modules, heat the cells to dry them and then shred the dried material to make battery powder that ships to Korea.”
WNEG: Will there be any solid waste resulting from the recycling process?
SungEel:“All materials are recycled for beneficial reuse. Nothing goes to the landfill and nothing is going into the city’s wastewater system that the city cannot process without issue.”
WNEG: If a new recycling process will be used in the plant here, has it been used elsewhere or is this a first-time trial?
SungEel:“Our process is the same since 2008, but the equipment has been upgraded.”
WNEG: What, if any, local or state incentives is SungEel receiving by locating a plant in Stephens County? SungEel: “This project is currently active, and additional details regarding the incentives will become publicly available at a later date. The state’s details will be published at www.georgia.org/about-us/georgia-department-of-community-affairs-dca.”
WNEG: How does SungEel plan to be a good corporate partner in Toccoa-Stephens County?
SungEel: “We will invest $37-million in this facility and we plan to utilize North Georgia Technical College’s service for employee training and hiring. We want to be good community partners and will hopefully have the opportunity to participate in corporate sponsorships and donations.”
WNEG: Will there be any pollutants released into the air as part of the process?
SungEel: “This process is fully compliant with Federal and State permitting regulations. The air permit will be in hand prior to starting operation. Once the permit application is submitted, it will be available to the public.”
WNEG: Do SungEel’s recycling plans meet the requirements of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division and Department of Natural Resources?
SungEel: “Yes, we are actively working with EPD and DNR throughout the permitting process.”
WNEG: When does the company expect to start production?
SungEel: “December 2023.”
WNEG: How is what you are proposing here different from what you were proposing in New York?
SungEel: “There was no proposal for an incinerator in New York and there will not be one in Georgia. The proposal for New York included a natural gas-fired dryer, and this proposal will use an electric-powered dryer instead. We will also be recovering more electrolyte material in Georgia.”
WNEG: Will your process impact the air quality of the community? Will there be any PFAs released in your process?
SungEel: “There are no PFAs. We are actively working with EPD and nothing will exceed state or federal regulations.”
WNEG: Will you be storing any batteries at the facility?
SungEel: “This is not a storage facility. There will be separate areas for raw materials and a separate area for short-term finished goods storage.”
WNEG: Have you considered a financial commitment to the local fire departments in Stephens County to ensure they have the resources to extinguish any fire at your facility?
SungEel: “We met with local fire personnel, the EMA director and the County’s commercial building inspector to answer any questions they had. There is no special equipment needed to extinguish fires at our facility. We are committed to working with local fire and emergency management to ensure that everyone is prepared. We will have our own state of the art fire suppressant systems in place that satisfy all building codes and insurance requirements and have asked the fire personnel to work with us every six months to train our employees in fire precaution procedures. This six-month training is required at all our other facilities.”
WNEG: What are the pay ranges for the 104 jobs this facility will create?
SungEel: “Our average pay range is above the county’s current average pay wage of $22.85/hour.”
WNEG: Will Stephens County residents be considered first for filling the new positions?
SungEel: “One of the reasons we decided to locate in Toccoa-Stephens County is because of the local and regional workforce. We fully expect to hire locally qualified individuals to fill our positions.”