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Nearly 70 lose jobs after factory fire in Storey County


UPDATE (12/20/19):

Officials from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection said they don’t have any immediate environmental concerns after they met with Storey County fire officials at the plant site. Environmental officials will continue to evaluate the situation as they gather more information.

A Reno-area company that’s developing new technology to recycle lead batteries has laid off 69 workers after a major fire on Nov. 29.

Executives of Aqua Metals Inc. said that they hope investigators can get into the fire-damaged portions of its plant at 2500 Peru Drive in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center this week.  The cause of the fire still hasn’t been determined.

Officials from the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection plan to meet with Storey County fire officials at the site Wednesday.

Company officials said they haven’t been able to take a good look at the damage because of safety concerns as well as the need to preserve the scene for fire investigators. And even once the company knows the extent of the damage, executives don’t know when the facility might be able to get into operation.

The company said it provided “reasonable severance and assistance” to the workers, and it praised them as “great people.”

But they do know that a storage tank melted during the fire, releasing about 1,600 gallons of concentrate used in the lead-recycling process. None of the liquid escaped the plant building.

Aqua Metals officials said in a statement that most of the 69 laid-off workers were directly involved in operation of the plant. The company said it provided “reasonable severance and assistance” to the workers, and it praised them as “great people.” 


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Unlike other companies that smelt and recycle lead batteries, Aqua Metal has developed an environmentally friendlier, water-based recycling process that operates at room temperatures.

Before the fire, the publicly held company had told investors that it expected to have all of its equipment in place by the end of the year at the plant east of Sparks.

While it was getting ready for full production this year, Aqua Metals reported it lost $30.5 million in the first nine months of 2019.

Flames inside the AquaRefining area reached the roofline. Image: Aqua Metals.
John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer is a business writer and editor in Reno. In his 40-year career, he has edited publications in Nevada, Colorado and California and written several thousand published articles about business and finance.