AKWESASNE — A $20 million settlement may remedy nearly 60 years of environmental pollution to the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
Alcoa Inc. and Reynolds Metals Co. agreed to pay $18.5 million for having released hazardous material into the St. Lawrence River since the late 1950s, which took a toll on natural resources, recreational fishing and the Mohawk culture.
The money will be added to $1.8 million awarded in the General Motors bankruptcy settlement in 2011.
Public meetings to review restoration plans developed by a panel of trustees will be held next month in Akwesasne and Massena.
“One of the most important aspects of this settlement is to understand the relationship between the environment and Mohawk culture, society and our economy,” St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Chief Randy Hart said in a news release.
“It’s the most important relationship for any tribe, not just the Mohawks. This settlement gives us the opportunity to restore some facets of that relationship to contemporary Mohawk culture, especially in terms of the relationship between elders and younger community members.”
Alcoa, Reynolds Metals and General Motors released hazardous materials, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aluminum, fluoride and cyanide, into the St. Lawrence for years, which, in turn, damaged the environment and contaminated the Mohawk community, according to the release.
The pollution “degraded natural resources used for traditional cultural practices,” the release states.
“Today’s settlement will increase public access to fishing, protect wildlife and help restore the health and economic vitality of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
“It will also help the Akwesasne Mohawk community to restore cultural practices that have suffered as a result of these companies’ pollution,” he said.
“My office will continue to hold those who damage New York’s environment and threaten our economy accountable for their actions.”