By LAUREN McLANE -- email@example.com
Wirerope Works Inc. of Williamsport really got the lead out — 27,000 pounds of it annually.
The company completely eliminated the toxic material from its production process over the past two years. In doing so, it realized annual savings of $50,000 and recycled more than 80,000 pounds of lead, according to a press release issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
For that achievement, the company was honored Thursday with the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, presented on-site by DEP secretary Kathleen A. McGinty to members of the company.
“Being lead-free plus the ’now hiring’ sign outside is the reason Wirerope’s application rose to the top of the pile for the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence,” McGinty said.
The award is presented to Pennsylvania business and organizations that put in place projects that deal with environmental problems in ways that build new businesses, enhance the bottom line and engage residents in a renewed commitment to investing in their communities, according to the press release.
The department received 78 applications in 2005, and made 12 awards. The applications were evaluated on overall environmental benefit, public service, economic impact, use of innovative technology, teamwork and environmental education and outreach.
“You’re a winner because it’s self-initiated — no one told you you had to do it,” she continued.
In early 2004, the company enrolled in the Environmental Protection Agency’s national partnership for environmental priorities, and “made a commitment to reduce its lead emissions,” the press release said.
Traditionally, wire rope was made using the “double lead patenting process,” in which wire is dipped in two separate molten lead baths, according to the EPA. The process makes the metal hard yet ductile — stretchable, so it can be drawn into finished wire.
The company implemented a new process using a “direct fired” furnace and molten salt baths, according to a press release. The method yields wire of equivalent quality as before, the release said.
The benefits of being lead-free are broader than just an award. “One of the innovations allows formerly ’hazardous’ waste to be dealt with differently because it’s no longer hazardous, which saves money,” she added.
Mike Catino, plant engineer, explained that Wirerope’s elimination of lead in its process had a domino effect around the state. “By taking lead out of the whole process, we also took it out of our acid waste,” he said.
That acid waste, which would have been classified as ’hazardous’ if it contained lead, is now used by the city of Lebanon to treat phosphates from sludge. That sludge, in turn, is used by farmers on their fields in place of synthetic phosphates, he explained. “It enabled a chain to begin.”
“The good news is, we’re seeing this all across the state,” McGinty said, referring to companies voluntarily eliminating hazardous chemicals from their waste.
She also commended legislators who worked with the governor, “partnering with the governor to create a real stick-and-stay economic turnaround.”
“Pennsylvania is number one in the northeastern part of the country in new manufacturing jobs. We’re number four in the country overall in new manufacturing jobs,” she said, adding that the state was competing with traditional powerhouse manufacturing states such as Ohio, Illinois and Idaho, many of which have not recovered from the economic downturn in the early part of the decade.
“Several years ago, many people believed the production of wirerope in this community wouldn’t continue. Not only are we still here, we’re growing, and we’ve been lead-free on the property for more than a year,” executive vice president Virgil Probasco said.
State Rep. Steven W. Cappelli, R-Williamsport, was one of those people. “I shared a very real concern that the production of wirerope at this historic facility would no longer happen, but production is up, employment is up and the future has never looked brighter. This award is proof that the evolution of the company is on-going.”
Although some people initially express skepticism of or hostility toward environmental initiatives, “if you give it a moment of intelligent though, it’s about turning the commonwealth around,” he added.
Jason Fink, representing the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce on behalf of CEO Vincent J. Matteo, thanked Wirerope for sharing with the Chamber. “We all partnered to keep the plant open and more than 400 local residents employed.”
“Five administrations have worked with Wirerope, local representatives and city council to keep Wirerope local and open,” city council president Tom O’Connor said.
All of the speakers commended the company on not only eliminating lead, but for expanding its work force and presence in the community.
McGinty presented Probasco with a flag as part of the award.
“The whole point of winning the award is so your neighbors can know your commitment” to the community, she said.
After her visit to Williamsport, McGinty traveled to Clinton County, where she presented a $1.35 million in Growing Greener II funds awarded by Gov. Ed Rendell to eliminate dangerous cliffs and spoil piles at the former Kelley Estate mine in West Keating Township. The project will also restore habitat for elk and other wildlife, transforming a portion of the “Pennsylvania Wilds” into a vast mountain meadow following reclamation, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The funds were presented to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which will administer the grant and work with DEP, the Clinton County Conservation District, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and consultant New Miles of Blue Streams. New Miles will be responsible for all design, engineering and permitting aspects of the project, the release said.
The project will restore Little Birch Island Run, which is a tributary to the Susquehanna River.
Section: News Posted: 6/9/2006
as printed in the Williamsport SunGazette