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Plan To Address Badin Lake Contamination Under Review

A plan to address several acres of Badin Lake bed contaminated by Alcoa is up for public review this week. Environmental regulators say Alcoa is guilty of letting dangerous chemicals called PCBs wash into Badin Lake from its former aluminum smelter onshore. Two areas in the lake are of particular concern - one near the southern boat ramp and another under a storm water discharge pipe from the former smelter. They're just under four acres in all. Alcoa has proposed locking the contaminants under a layer of sand and rock called a "cap" That's better than dredging the sediment says Cathy Akroyd with the state Division of Waste Management. "Dredging would not be a good idea because that sort of activity would re-suspend the PCBs into the lake and that is the exact opposite of what we want to do. We want to stabilize it and keep it down," says Akroyd. PCBs bind with sediment and can stick around for decades, slowly working their way into the food chain. In 2009, the state health department issued a consumption advisory for unsafe levels of PCBs in largemouth bass and catfish in Badin Lake. State regulators have not fined Alcoa for the Badin Lake PCB problem because they say it's unclear when the contamination happened. The U.S. banned industrial use of PCBs in the late 1970s. Federal guidelines on PCB contamination weren't made until the 1980s. Environmental activists and Stanly County officials would like to see Alcoa do more to address contamination in Badin Lake. The company will spend about $2 million on the capping project. A public hearing will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Stanly County government building (1000 North First St., Albemarle).