USA: Senator Pushes for Grasse River Cleanup

Senator Pushes for Grasse River Cleanup

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld to expedite and finalize the company’s commitment to multi-million dollar facility upgrades at their Massena plant.

Schumer has been working with Alcoa and the EPA for over a year to finally make public a long-delayed clean-up plan for the Grasse River. It was this large clean-up plan, valued at over $200 million, that Alcoa said must be finalized before the company would act to approve financing for the facility expansion in 2013. Alcoa has stated in the past that the expansion plans could mean a $600 million investment in the North Country but that it could only move forward if the company had certainty over the river cleanup costs in the Fall of 2012. Schumer therefore, visited Alcoa in Massena in August, and urged that the EPA fast-track the public release of a Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) to clean up the Grasse River.

In a personal phone call, Schumer highlighted to Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld that the EPA’s release of the Grasse River cleanup plan aligns with the company’s required timeline for expansion – ahead of the first quarter of 2013 – and comes at a reasonable and fair cost. There were several plans in consideration at the EPA to remove and contain the pollutants in the Grasse River that have accumulated from the company’s manufacturing activities over the past four decades. In August, after being briefed by the stakeholders, Schumer pushed for a public plan that many of the parties agreed could total over $200 million in environmental remediation. Fortunately, the EPA heeded Schumer’s call and published its PRAP it for public comment, which ends November 15th. Alcoa now has a better understanding of the terms and costs of their legal requirements for cleaning up the river, and Schumer is urging Alcoa to make a firm commitment to upgrade its manufacturing operations and create jobs in Massena.

“Given that the Environmental Protection Agency has done their due diligence and released a fair and timely cleanup plan for the Grasse River, the ball is on Alcoa’s court to expand their operations and create jobs in the North Country,” said Schumer. “In my phone conversation with Alcoa’s CEO Klaus, I urged that he make a steadfast and final commitment to the company’s future in St. Lawrence County and move forward with all due speed towards a $600 million investment and upgrades at their plant in Massena. The release of the Grasse River cleanup plan clears the last major hurdle towards Alcoa’s expansion, and now Alcoa must make their expansion plans loud and clear to the people and workers of St. Lawrence County.”

In August, Schumer was joined by Alcoa workers and plant manager John Martin at Alcoa’s Massena plant, and launched his effort for the EPA and other relevant federal agencies to approve and expedite the publication of the PRAP. Schumer visited with the full support of Alcoa, as the company had sought his help in ensuring the plan was released in time to meet the company’s Fall 2012 deadline. Now that the EPA released its $243 million cleanup plan on October 1, 2012, Schumer stated that Alcoa’s board should take action and commit to its proposed $600 million expansion of its Massena manufacturing operation, which it must do by early next year. This multi-million modernization and upgrade project will ensure the future of the Massena operations for at least three decades.

Since 1989, Alcoa has already invested $65 million to eradicate the Grasse River’s industrial pollutants. The EPA, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and local stakeholders have been negotiating the terms of the proposal to decrease the level of contaminants in the Grasse River that have accumulated from the manufacturing plants’ discharge over the past four decades. Although Alcoa has demonstrated a quarter-century commitment to cleaning up the river, the release of this PRAP is necessary to ensure that the largest-ever cleanup of the river can commence.

As the largest private employer in the North Country, with over 1,000 manufacturing jobs, Alcoa is a critical fixture in Massena and other local communities. By early next year, the Alcoa board must take action on a proposal to invest over $600 million modernization and upgrade project for their Massena manufacturing facility that will ensure the future of the Massena operations for at least three decades. Schumer highlighted that these facility upgrades, in conjunction with the river cleanup project, means Alcoa could be in line to invest close to $800 million in a North Country community in dire need of a job-creating jolt.

The PRAP includes the capping and dredging of industrial waste in the Grasse River. Alcoa has already exhibited expertise in employing successful capping and dredging methods in the Grasse River over the past 23 years. Specifically, the plan aims to dredge some contaminated sediment from the river basin and cap other segments of the river in order to contain hazardous sediment and isolate pollutants. The Grasse River, a tributary of the St Lawrence River, flows from the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, through the towns of Canton and Massena in the St. Lawrence Valley, and meets the St. Lawrence River downstream of Massena. Large parts of the Grasse River are popular with anglers, since it is stocked with a variety of trout and bass species. As a result of elevated PCB levels found in fish in the area, the lower Grasse River has been placed under a fish consumption advisory by the New York State Department of Health.


Press Release, October 12, 2012