MASSENA - Alcoas proposed modernization project hinges on the progression of a Grasse River environmental cleanup, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumers office.
Mr. Schumer will visit Alcoas Massena West plant Wednesday morning to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to fast track the river cleanup. For years, the company has worked with state and federal agencies to remediate contaminated areas near its Massena East and West Plants.
Alcoa needs more information on the river cleanups costs and details before it can move forward with the modernization project, according to Mr. Schumers press secretary, Meredith Kelly.
They cant move forward with future expansion plans until they know whats going on with the EPA, Ms. Kelly said. They need some certainty that they dont have right now.
Mr. Schumer is relaying those concerns to the EPA, Ms. Kelly said.
Alcoa, the largest private employer in the north country, has proposed several alternatives to remove and contain pollutants in the Grasse River that have accumulated from the companys manufacturing activities over the past four decades, Ms. Kelly said in a statement.
Schumer believes there is a fair option on the table that would cost approximately $200 million. The company has been working cooperatively with the EPA and other stakeholders for a number of years and is in the final stages of the process.
Alcoas board of directors ultimately will decide whether to commit to a modernization of its Massena facilities by March 31, 2013. Local staff are using the time between now and then to hammer out the details and make Massena as attractive as possible to corporate. Alcoas commitment to modernization could ensure the companys future here for decades to come.
In order to continue receiving low-cost hydro power from the New York Power Authority, Alcoa must invest at least $600 million in the modernized plant.
The project will cost more than that, Plant Manager John Martin previously said. Mr. Schumers office said the $200 million in river cleanup costs is in addition to the $600 million modernization figure.
A warning has been posted along the effected section of the Grasse for a number of years warning residents and fishermen not to eat any fish caught in that area, which have been found to be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
A temporary cap was installed on the riverbed several years ago to help contain the contamination until a more permanent solution was found. However, springtime ice jams in a section of the polluted stretch have raised concerns about the viability of a sediment cap alone.
When ice builds up nearby, water pressure increases in the impacted area, scouring the riverbottom and increasing the risk that contaminated soils could be disturbed.
Environmental agencies have indicated an ice control mechanism will likely be required as part of the long-term solution for the Grasse River segment.
Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr deferred comment to Mr. Schumers office Tuesday afternoon.