© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Yadkin Riverkeeper To Sue Alcoa Over Badin Lake Contaminants

Yadkin River

Yadkin River A Yadkin River environmental watchdog group has warned Alcoa it will sue within 90 days unless the aluminum giant takes immediate action to deal with toxic levels of chemicals in Badin Lake. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency determined Alcoa had, indeed, dumped dangerous cancer-causing chemicals called PCBs into Badin Lake during the 100 or so years it operated an aluminum smelter on shore. The EPA said at the time additional study - and remediation of the problem - were necessary. The Yadkin Riverkeeper's Dean Naujoks has run out of patience. "It's time," says Naujoks. "If the state's not gonna do it. If the EPA's not gonna require them to do. We're gonna make them do it." Alcoa has long maintained that it monitors the PCBs in the lake sediment and that the levels do not pose a risk to humans. But the North Carolina Department of Health has found enough PCBs in some Badin Lake fish to issue a consumption advisory for children and pregnant women. Alcoa says those PCBs - and the ones found in fish downstream - could just have likely come from other industrial sites on the river. "That argument does not wash," says Naujoks. "There are PCBs migrating downstream, we've seen it in the fish downstream and we've definitely linked the PCBs to Alcoa." Naujoks says that proof comes from samples collected by the Yadkin Riverkeeper of mussels in Badin Lake and a catfish found downstream. A private lab determined PCBs in the samples match the unique chemical structure of those Alcoa used in its smelter. Alcoa has only taken responsibility for PCBs found in the lake sediment. The Yadkin Riverkeeper has issued a 90-day letter of intent to sue unless Alcoa takes responsibility for PCBs found in the lake's wildlife and conducts a full assessment of the ecological risks they pose. PCBs can stay in a system for years and magnify in toxicity as they work their way up the food chain. Alcoa declined to be interviewed for this story, but sent a press release announcing the company's plan to contain sediment in the most contaminated section of Badin Lake with a protective layer of sand and gravel. Naujoks says that doesn't address the PCBs already in the food chain and won't be enough to avert a lawsuit from the Yadkin Riverkeeper.