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EPA Releases $243 Million Grasse River Cleanup Plan

EPA Releases $243 Million Grasse River Cleanup Plan

After years of study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a plan to clean up contaminated river sediment at the Grasse River Superfund site in Massena, New York, downstream of where Alcoa Inc. has operated an aluminum smelting and manufacturing plant since 1903. The Grasse River flows northeast and empties into the St. Lawrence Seaway.

EPA said Alcoa¹s past industrial activities contaminated the river sediment with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), potentially cancer-causing chemicals that build up in the food chain and accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish and mammals.

The plan, whose cost EPA estimates at about $243 million, requires dredging and capping of contaminated sediment along a 7.2-mile stretch of river. Under Superfund rules, Alcoa will be responsible for the cleanup cost.

About 109,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment would be dredged from near-shore areas of the river and backfilled with clean material. Dredged sediment would be disposed of at a permitted, secure on-site landfill.
Earlier partial capping of parts of the river sediment by Alcoa, following a 1989 study recommendation, was partly undone by ice jams scouring the bottom, leading to the present plan.

In the river’s main channel, approximately 59 acres of contaminated sediment would be covered with an armored cap, and roughly another 225 acres of contaminated sediment would be capped with clean sand and gravel to isolate the contamination from the surrounding environment.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) issued a statement on October 1 praising EPA’s proposal.

“This plan is very positive news for both the environment and the economy of the North Country. After years of work, the EPA has mapped out a balanced way to clean the Grasse River and protect public health without breaking the bank. I will work hand-in-glove with all stakeholders to see that this historic investment in the North Country economy and environment can serve as a springboard for the long-term growth and vibrancy of Alcoa,” Schumer said.

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