Aluminum Smelting Company Coming to West Lakeland

A company that melts old aluminum wheels into ingots is moving into a long-vacant industrial building a few blocks west of the entrance to the upcoming Bonnet Springs Park.

John Stiefel’s Aluminum Consulting Services was cleared to move its secondary-smelting operation into a 12,000-square-foot building at 1220 George Jenkins Blvd. on Monday when the Lakeland City Commission approved a zoning change on 7.18 acres.

The building is in an area that has been in use as an industrial park since the late 1940s, although in recent years downtown amenities have crept closer.

The seven acres was previously zoned for medium industrial use. Planned unit development zoning allows the city to impose conditions, which include requirements that:

  • The smelting and associated manufacturing take place in a fully enclosed building
  • No aluminum wheels, metal scrap or reclaimed materials be stored outside
  • No odors be detectable at or beyond the property line

Stiefel, the company president, told city planners that more than four million pounds of clean aluminum wheels are exported monthly from Florida for smelting, mostly to China. He plans to tap into that market with a 24-hour-a-day operation that at full capacity would produce 3 million pounds of aluminum ingots a month and employ 45 to 50 workers.

Teresa Maio, community planning and housing manager, said the company previously operated in Dade City but a fire in a neighboring business forced it to close.

City planning staff received a good report from Dade City officials about Stiefel’s operation, Maio told city commissioners.

And a check with state environmental regulators backed the company’s assurances that the operation is highly regulated, she said

A staff report quotes Stiefel as saying the manufacturing process uses natural gas burners in a controlled environment that meet or exceed staten and federal environmental requirements.

“Because smelting would be limited to clean aluminum wheels, no hazardous chemicals would be used to remove impurities during the manufacturing process,” the report says.

City Manager Tony Delgado said that at commissioners’ request staff had added the condition that odors could not be detected at or beyond the property line.

While that is a matter of perception, typically that would mean one or more city staff members visiting on several occasions would detect an odor before taking enforcement action, which ultimately would include going before a code enforcement hearing officer, various staff members said.

“I suspect we will be able to straighten it out if the condition arises,” Delgado said..

The staff report said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that emissions generated by secondary smelting of clean aluminum would be limited to particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds associated with burning natural gas, the report said.

Commissioners followed the recommendation of city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission in approving the rezoning request.

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