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Mon., Oct. 5
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Mayor: Alcoa’s future in Massena tied to river cleanup costs


MASSENA - Mayor James F. Hidy is encouraging Massena to show strong support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Grasse River cleanup plan in order to ensure Alcoa’s long-term future here.

Mr. Hidy attended a meeting Wednesday of Alcoa officials and community leaders. At that meeting, Mr. Hidy said Alcoa encouraged the community members in attendance to express their support to EPA of the proposed $243 million plan.

Mr. Hidy, in turn, would like his constituents and others in the north country to write to EPA and say the proposed $243 million plan is sufficient. He is concerned what would happen if the EPA decided to pick a more expensive proposal.

Mr. Hidy attended Wednesday night’s Town Council and Thursday’s Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena meeting to encourage those boards to do the same.

“This is a critical time for Alcoa,” Mr. Hidy said. “They are the last lifeline we have of a major industrial power to keep people working up here.”

Alcoa’s board of directors is to decide by March 31 whether to commit to a modernization of its Massena facilities. Local staff is using the time between now and then to hammer out the details and make Massena as attractive as possible to corporate officers. Alcoa’s commitment to modernization could help retain employees and ensure the company’s future here for decades.

Mr. Hidy said no one from Alcoa has told him that the company’s future depends on the price of the proposed river cleanup. But he has concluded that a company like Alcoa only has so much money to spend.

There are other areas in the world with cheap electricity, as close as Quebec and as far away as Saudi Arabia, that Alcoa could decide to invest in instead, he said.

“We can’t keep going to Alcoa and saying, ‘You’ve got to pump millions more,’” Mr. Hidy said. “Alcoa is on the fence. The future of Alcoa, as it stands right now, lies on the cleanup.”

“I am not confident that if (the cleanup plan) goes higher than it is right now, that Alcoa will remain in this community,” he told the town board Wednesday night.

Mr. Hidy said he is not insinuating that Alcoa plans to close, but is only trying to emphasize that nothing is etched in stone.

The EPA will consider community input before finalizing the plan, and will hold several formal public meetings and informal information sessions Oct. 29 and 30 in Akwesasne and Massena. The agency encourages the public to comment on the plan through Nov. 15.

“It is imperative the community attend these meetings and voice their concern,” Mr. Hidy said. “The town should be rallying around Alcoa in keeping them in this area.”

The proposed plan requires dredging and capping of contaminated sediment in a 7.2-mile stretch of river. Approximately 109,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment would be dredged from near-shore areas of the river and backfilled with clean material. Dredged sediment would be disposed of at a permitted, secure on site landfill.

In the river’s main channel, approximately 59 acres of contaminated sediment would be covered with an armored cap and another approximately 225 acres of contaminated sediment would be capped with clean sand and gravel to isolate the contamination from the surrounding environment.

Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr said the Grasse River cleanup was one of several topics broached at the meeting of the Community Advisory Board, which is comprised of business and community leaders who discuss issues important to Alcoa and Massena.

Alcoa officials previously said they felt a capping remedy would be sufficient for the cleanup, but nonetheless wanted to work with EPA and its preferred option.

“We believe it’s important for the process to move forward,” Ms. Marr said in an email. “We encourage people to submit comments on the recommended plan and attend one of the public meetings being held, to voice their opinion.”

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council officials previously said that dredging the river more than EPA proposed would help eliminate contamination permanently. Such a plan would also drive up the cost of the cleanup.

While in Massena on Thursday, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said he also supports the EPA’s plan.

“It appears to me from information related by the EPA, given the nature of riverbed, dredging may be more harmful to the toxins than what has been proposed by EPA,” Mr. Owens said. “I think they’re applying good science to this which is critical.”

Mr. Hidy encouraged the public to write their comments and concerns to Young S. Chang, Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10007-1866, email:,

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