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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: ALCOA Incorporated in Massena, New York

On this page:

  • Cleanup Status
  • Site Description
  • Contaminants at this Facility
  • Site Responsibility

Cleanup Status                         

In January 1985, NYSDEC entered into a Consent Order with ALCOA to investigate and remediate all areas of hazardous and industrial waste at the facility. Investigations at the site were conducted from 1985-1991. During the investigations, ALCOA implemented several interim remedial measures (IRMs), including a collection system for leachate, the liquid that percolates down through a landfill; and the excavation of PCB-contaminated sediments in the West Marsh and a tributary.

A total of 18 solid waste management units and areas of concern were identified, including landfills, lagoons, spent potlining piles, areas affected by storm water drainage, etc. The NYSDEC issued several Records of Decision to address these areas. Most of the remedial actions were conducted from 1992 through 2000. A Groundwater Environmental Indicator Environmental Assessment for this site, which determined that groundwater migration at this facility is under control, was successfully completed in May 2001.

In addition to on-site issues, EPA issued in November 1989 a Unilateral Administrative Order  to ALCOA pursuant to Section 106(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (ACERCLA@), 42 U.S.C. ' 9606(a), requiring ALCOA to undertake an investigation of contamination in the Grasse River. The Order also includes the design and implementation of the final remedy for the river system once a remedy has been selected by EPA. In the summer of 1995, ALCOA completed dredging of the most highly contaminated sediments from the area adjacent to the Outfall 001 under the Non-time-critical Removal Action (NTCRA).

Several studies have been performed since the NTCRA was completed.  In 2001, ALCOA conducted a Capping Study in order to test a variety of capping materials and application methods over a seven acre area in the Grasse River. In 2002, Alcoa submitted a Capping Pilot Study Documentation Report and an Analysis of Alternatives Report (equivalent to a feasibility study report) for remediating the remaining river sediments.

Monitoring conducted in 2003, however, indicated that cap material had been lost and, in some areas, underlying sediment had eroded as a result of an ice jam scour event. As a result, Alcoa needed to re-evaluate remedial alternatives in order to account for the possibility of future severe ice jam scour events, which were unknown prior to the 2003 event.

Alcoa conducted Remedial Operations Pilot Study in 2005 in which pilot-scale dredging, thin-layer capping, and armored capping were performed to generate data that will be used in a revised Analysis of Alternatives Report. Alcoa also had conducted In-Situ PCB Bioavailability Reduction Pilot Study using granulated activated carbon in 2006 and in 2007 performed an Ice-Breaking Demonstration Project.

The Draft Addendum to the Comprehensive Characterization of the Lower Grasse River dated 2004 was updated in 2009. The Draft Analysis of Alternatives Report was submitted in March 2010. EPA anticipates issuing a Proposed Plan in 2012 and will solicit public comment on the cleanup plan for the Grasse River.  The trends observed in groundwater quality in site monitoring wells demonstrate the conditions are improving naturally. The 2004 record of decision for this site selected monitoring with institutional controls as the remedy for groundwater. The 2008 site management plan calls for semi-annual monitoring of wells from upgradient, within the contaminant plume and down gradient. As stated in the record of decision, the purpose of this monitoring is to evaluate the effectiveness of the on-site remedy and to verify that the off-site plume does not adversely affect public health or the environment.

Site Description

ALCOA's Massena operations are located on 2,700 acres in the Town of Massena, St. Lawrence County, New York. The facility is bordered on the north by the St. Lawrence River, on the southwest by the Massena Power Canal and on the southeast by the Grasse River. Aluminum and aluminum products have been manufactured at the plant continuously since 1903. As a result of these manufacturing activities, industrial and hazardous wastes have been disposed of at various locations throughout the facility. Eighteen areas of concern have been identified, which include landfills, lagoons, spent-potliner piles, the storm water drainage system and other areas. Municipal water was provided to nearby residents in 1994.

The facility currently has interim status under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) program and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (NYSDEC's) Division of Environmental Remediation has the lead for corrective action at this site.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Contaminants at this Facility

The primary contaminants, which are found in both soil and the groundwater at the site, are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), metals, fluoride and cyanide. Groundwater contamination has been identified in both the bedrock and the area above the bedrock. Shallow groundwater has been found to discharge to surface water, including the Massena Power Canal, Robinson Creek, the Grasse River, and the onsite lagoons and marsh.

Past releases and storm water runoff from the site have contaminated sediments in drainage ditches, wetlands, the Massena Power Canal, Robinson Creek and the Grasse River. Analysis of fish in the Grasse River revealed high levels of PCB contamination. As a result, fish consumption advisory has been issued by the New York State Department of Health.

Site Responsibility at this Facility

In January 1985, NYSDEC and EPA separately entered into Consent Orders with ALCOA to investigate and remediate all areas of hazardous and industrial waste at the facility. Records of Decision (RODs) detailing the remedial work required at the facility were prepared by EPA and DEC in March of 1991 and January of 1992.

The facility permit status is certified closed, that is, there are no hazardous waste activities presently conducted at the facility that require a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit. ALCOA is presently operating as a RCRA regulated generator only. On March 1, 1994, In accordance with RCRA regulations, ALCOA announced - and sought public comment on -- its intent to cease all RCRA permit related treatment, storage and disposal activities at the facility. Building 79 received closure certification by NYSDEC on November 9, 1994.