MASSENA -- Sen. Charles E. Schumer joined Alcoa officials and workers in Massena today to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize its cleanup plan for the Grasse River.
While Alcoa’s board has authorized investment in multi-million dollar facility upgrades at the Massena plant, the job-creating investment cannot move forward without the finalization of the Environmental Protection Agency’s cleanup plan, Schumer said.
The EPA released its Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) for the cleanup of pollutants in the river in October 2012, and final approval of that plan is expected in the near future.
Schumer said it must occur in April, because all due diligence has been completed, and failure to grant final approval for the cleanup serves no substantive purpose and would only delay in work on modernization of the Massena operations.
The river cleanup is estimated to cost about $245 million. The modernization investment would retain hundreds of jobs in St. Lawrence County, and would create others, securing this vital industry for decades to come.
Schumer visited Alcoa in August 2012 and launched his effort for the EPA and other relevant federal agencies to approve and expedite the publication of the PRAP. In August, the EPA heeded Schumer’s call and released its plan for the cleanup of pollutants in the Grasse River in Massena, which he said would help boost and expedite Alcoa’s plans to improve the local environment and upgrade its manufacturing operations in Massena.
Schumer said that the EPA is nearly finished finalizing the PRAP in the form of the ROD and he expects that it will be a fair and balanced approach similar to the plan released in October, which gives Alcoa’s Board of Directors the confidence necessary to reaffirm their commitment to St. Lawrence County and all of its workers. Schumer said that the EPA plan must be released in April.
“Once the EPA acts, the North Country will have cause for celebration: Alcoa, our region’s largest private sector employer, will be able to move to the next phase of a multi-million investment at the Massena plant,” said Schumer. “This will create jobs, boost the local economy and improve the environment. It will also anchor Alcoa and its jobs in St. Lawrence County for decades to come. Now, the EPA must give Alcoa and local stakeholders the final approval to move forward with this game-changing, environment-improving, economy-boosting moment.”
In addition, if the final ROD were to increase dramatically in cost from the $245 million detailed in the EPA’s preliminary estimations, Alcoa might not be able to afford it’s recently authorized $600 million investment, which is expected to create construction and permanent jobs, estimated to be in the hundreds.
Schumer said he has worked closely with Alcoa and local stakeholders over the past two years to ensure that the federal EPA moved swiftly and fairly in that process, which had dragged on for a number of years.
"Alcoa and the Massena community has had no stronger advocate with the EPA than Senator Schumer. The Senator has worked tirelessly to help achieve a reasonable solution that cleans up the river and allows Alcoa to keep investing in the North Country-making Saturday's announcement possible. That's why we're very excited to have Senator Schumer here today, and are grateful for his continued support," said Robert Lenney, Alcoa Massena Plant Manager.
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.
The proposed $600 million for modernizations and upgrades have marked a critical step forward in the company’s conditional approval, and will ensure the future of the Massena operations for at least three decades.
The PRAP, which was released by the EPA in October 2012, 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 calls for dredging of contaminated sediment from the river basin and capping of other segments in the river in order to contain hazardous sediment and isolate pollutants.