Aluminum Company of America, Massena, NY
Alcoa, Inc. has owned and operated an aluminum product manufacturing facility called Alcoa West facility in the Town of Massena, New York, since 1903. In connection with its past operations at the facility, Alcoa released hazardous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), onto the facility property as well as into the Grasse River through four industrial outfalls. As a result of these discharges, sediments in the river system surrounding the Alcoa West facility and approximately seven miles downstream have been contaminated. Analysis of fish in the Grasse River revealed high levels of PCB contamination and as a result in 1990, the New York State Department of Health issued a consumption advisory recommending that no fish be eaten from the Grasse River between the Massena Power Canal and the mouth of the St Lawrence River.
Contamination on the Alcoa West facility property and in upland areas is being investigated and remediated by Alcoa pursuant to several Consent Orders with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
On September 28, 1989, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (the Order) to Alcoa requiring the company to investigate the extent of contamination at, and analyze remedial alternatives for, the Grasse River Study Area Site (Site), which includes that portion of the Grasse River between the confluence of the Grasse and St. Lawrence Rivers and a point one mile west and upriver from Alcoa's westernmost outfall, and any associated tributaries and wetlands.
In the summer of 1995, Alcoa completed a non time-critical removal action (NTCRA) that removed highly contaminated sediments from an area near an outfall at the Alcoa facility. Alcoa removed about 3,000 cubic yards of sediment, boulders, and debris which included approximately 8,000 pounds of PCBs.
In September 2012, the EPA issued a Proposed Plan that identified the EPA's preferred remedy, and other options that were considered, for cleaning up the Grasse River Superfund Site. To encourage public participation, the EPA held multiple formal public meetings and informal information sessions in Massena, N.Y. and on the Akwesasne Reservation to discuss its plan. The EPA finalized the plan in April 2013 after reviewing and considering all comments received during the 60-day public comment period, and after consultation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.
The cleanup plan requires dredging and capping of contaminated sediment in a 7.2 mile stretch of the river. Approximately 109,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be dredged from near-shore areas of the river, which will then be filled in with clean material. Dredged sediment will be disposed of at an on-site permitted, secure landfill. In the river’s main channel, approximately 59 acres of contaminated sediment will be covered with an armored cap and another approximately 225 acres of contaminated sediment will be capped with a mix of clean sand and topsoil to isolate the contamination from the surrounding environment. Habitat that is impacted by the cleanup will be reconstructed. The plan requires long-term monitoring of the capped areas to ensure that the caps remain intact, and monitoring of fish, water and habitat. Details of this work will be defined during the estimated three-year design phase of the project, and will include plans for worker and community health and safety. A cultural resources survey will also be conducted prior to the start of in-river work. Based on current estimates, dredging, filling, and capping will take approximately four years to complete. The fish consumption advisories established by the New York State Department of Health will remain in effect until PCB concentrations in fish are reduced to the point where they can be relaxed or lifted by the state.