AKWESASNE — St. Regis Mohawks are not satisfied with the federal government’s choice to dredge and cap nearly 300 acres of PCB contamination in the Grasse River near Alcoa.
The cleanup at the Grasse River Superfund site will cost the Massena-based aluminum manufacturer $243 million. It will take four years to complete the in-river work following a two-year design phase.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined the best way to mitigate the problems along a 7.2-mile stretch of the river is to remove 59 acres of sediment through dredging and cover another 225 acres with layers of clean sand, silt, gravel and anchor stone.
But that method leaves about 93 percent of the contaminated sediment in place.
Laurie Marr, communications and public-affairs manager for Alcoa’s Massena Operations, said the company had not seen the EPA’s Record of Decision yet and would comment once it had been received.
In the meantime, the Mohawks find the EPA’s decision troubling.
“I’m disappointed that the EPA would choose such a poor remedy that isn’t a permanent solution,” Tribal Council Chief Ron LaFrance said in a news release.
“Their mission has been compromised so industrial-pollution perpetrators can continue to violate the environment with little or no conscience. What’s even sadder is that jobs won out over the health of the people — jobs that never benefited our community anyway.”
Tribal Environmental Division Director Ken Jock said “the EPA has never sufficiently explained or justified the proposed capping remedy.”
‘CAN’T REMOVE ALL’
The tribe favored complete removal of the contamination.
But a fact sheet explaining the Grasse River project on the EPA website states that, even if the main-channel sediment containing PCBs were removed, high concentrations would remain on the bedrock, glacial till and marine clay on the river bottom no matter what type of dredging equipment was used.