Plastics recycling plant is coming to Sequoia Field

By C.J. Barbre

At the March 14 Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting Bill Hayter, Division Manager for Community Development/Redevelopment Department of the Resource Management Agency, requested permission to submit an application for $1.5 million CDBG Economic Development Over-the-Counter grant to provide new construction and infrastructure improvements on Sequoia Field. CDBG is, of course, Community Development Block Grant, and &#8220Over-the-Counter” means they can walk in and apply for it at any time.

But it's not what one would imagine - not for improved runways or other airport facilities - it's for a couple of buildings to house a plastics recycling operation called ViscoTech, out of Beijing, China. The improvement projects would be implemented by county staff utilizing the Tulare County Youth Corps.

Hayter said the application would meet CDBG requirements by creating 45 full-time jobs at least 51% of which would be for a targeted low income group. He said ViscoTech expects to create more jobs.

&#8220We have a very unique opportunity,” Hayter told the board. He said the company approached the county regarding plastic waste or &#8220dirty plastic” which includes such things and pesticide jugs and PVC pipes.

In a later conversation he said, &#8220There is no collection for plastic waste on dairies. What happens to all the rain caps they use on the vineyards and seed bags which are plastic? Virgin material is drying up because of worldwide demand, and a lot more emphasis is being placed on creating new plastics out of recycled products.”

Hayter told the board that RMA looked for a site that would suit the needs of the recycling operation and the county. They settled on a 40-acre section in the northeast corner of Sequoia Field that was the site of an abandoned gravel pit. He indicated two purple squares on an aerial view, in the northeast corner of the parcel, that would be the location of the buildings. He said they met with FAA approval as long as they did not interfere with the operation of the runway. Hayter said the county would lease the buildings to the plastics company. He said the gravel pits offered a way to store material out of sight at different levels.

Regarding wastewater, Hayter said they were putting in a wash rack and the water is filtered in a closed loop system. He said 95-98% is recycled. Residue materila is freeze-dried and taken to a landfill in Kettleman City. They plan to add a 120-gallon water storage tank and will tie into the existing water system.

&#8220Folks are really worried about this being compatible with the airport,” said District 2 Supervisor Connie Conway.

Hayter reassured her that a portion of the lease monies will be put into a trust fund for zero interest or low-interest loans for matching funds for future airport projects. He said the airport currently only generates $26,000 per year. &#8220This project will multiply that three times,” Hayter said.

District 1 Supervisor Allen Ishida noted that plastics are being used more and more in agriculture. He said its a great way to recycle and keep them out of landfills.

Hayter said recycling plastics has has become a real concern of the State and Integrated Waste Management board has designated this a pilot project. &#8220It's nice that Tulare County is taking the lead on something,” he said.

&#8220I hope this will not divert attention from Sequoia Field's north hangar,” District 2 Supervisor Phil Cox said.

Hayter said they will be eligible to apply for funding again in July and more funding will be available for projects in January. &#8220We will continued to look for ways to have business come in,” he said.

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