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Innovative processes coming to battery-cell plant

LORDSTOWN — The main building of General Motors’ planned battery-cell plant will be 2.5 million square feet — large enough to contain 31 football fields — and more than half is considered a “clean room” with low humidity to properly assemble the cells.

And in line with GM’s sustainability strategy and all-electric future, the automaker is looking for 100 percent renewable energy in plant operations, has a 100 percent plan for end-of-life battery recycling and is looking for ways to minimize waste by reusing parts of the material and processes.

“In our location, you’re going to see really innovative processes using high-tech processes and tools, a green infrastructure that includes how we construct the building all the way through how it’s operated to be really the lowest number of resources used to operate the facility,” plant Manager Tom Gallagher said.

“And then how we are going to capture and reuse will be in line from how we produce the cell all the way through its production, and any kind of byproducts will be retained and recycled and reused where they can be,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher spoke Thursday evening during a virtual meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding GM’s application for an environmental permit required to construct the manufacturing facility.

He was among 25 to 30 participants, a group that also included representatives from the corps of engineers, GM officials, the media and some members of the public.

The virtual meeting replaced a public hearing that was supposed to happen Thursday at Lordstown High School. It was changed over an “abundance of caution” given the recent development of the novel COVID-19 virus in Ohio, said Scott Hans, chief of the regulatory division for the corps of engineers Pittsburgh division.

The meeting didn’t meet the standards of the required public hearing in the permit review process, but was still intended for the public to submit comments and ask questions.

Comments submitted Thursday will be included in the permanent review while the corps of engineers will accept written comments through March 22.

Another meeting that was scheduled jointly by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on GM’s water quality certification permit application was canceled. Instead, the public can provide comments to the Ohio EPA, also through March 22.

Just a handful of questions were asked. They dealt with water retention into a creek nearby the proposed site, water quality and water quality degradation, the potential for flooding and retention ponds GM plans for the site.

GM is seeking the permits on behalf of GigaPower LLC, the working name for joint venture of GM and South Korea’s LG Chem to build the $2.3 billion plant, sited for 158 acres on Tod Avenue adjacent to GM’s former production facility.

GM has an aggressive timelime to get the plant built — it is planned to produce battery cells that will be used in packs to power 11 of 13 electric vehicles the automaker plans for in the next five years. It would employ upward of 1,100 people. The automaker hopes to break ground sometime between April and July.

Construction will disturb about 65 acres of low-quality wetlands. To mitigate the damage, GM plans to convert about 170 acres — 40 more than is required — in Mecca Township, more than 50 acres of wet meadows and more than 70 acres of forested wetland. There also will be open meadows

“So it’s got a diversity of habitat and we think that will support a diversity of species up there in that area,” said Jim Hartnett, environmental engineering for GM.

The property on Mahan Denman Road north of state Route 88 is owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. GM will be responsible for monitoring the site for 10 years to ensure its success, but then it reverts back to the state and will be wetland in perpetuity.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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