New Yadkin Riverkeeper Google Map Indicates Alcoa Worldwide Pattern of Pollution and Neglect
STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — The Stanly County Board of Commissioners have announced that they are requesting federal and state officials and leaders to scrutinize the extent of Alcoa’s contamination at Badin Lake, which feeds into the Yadkin River, in light of the release of a new Google Map showing more than 10 other communities in five continents have had similar ecological damage caused by Alcoa that resulted in years of protests before the multinational firm was forced to clean up its hazardous waste sites by government officials several times. The commissioners believe the map indicates a worldwide pattern by Alcoa of neglecting pollution complaints by residents in favor of profits, and they are concerned that the multinational firm’s history of are not being considered as a factor in its efforts to receive another 50-year license for a monopoly on hydroelectric power from the Yadkin River in Stanly County, also known as the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.
The map was created by Dean Naujoks, recently appointed as the new Yadkin Riverkeeper by the environmental group Friends of the Yadkin Pee Dee River. In his position, Naujoks is responsible for protecting and improving the Yadkin Pee Dee River Basin through education, advocacy and action. He made the map as part of his research into reports about Alcoa’s role in contamination associated with the Yadkin River and found evidence of additional ecological complaints about the company worldwide.
An interactive feature on the map allows viewers to highlight any community and a summary will appear on what environmental damage Alcoa caused there and how it responded, along with a link to a news source for more information. The map is available for viewing at the Yadkin Riverkeeper Web site.
Alcoa built a smelter near Badin Lake in Stanly County and opened it for production in 1916. It closed the plant in 2002. During its years of operations, Alcoa disposed of hazardous wastes near the property that it has failed to clean up. Tests have shown the presence of such contaminants as PCBs in the land and water at Badin Lake. Yet Alcoa has declined to identify all potential waste sites on the property as well as offer to clean them up in any timely matter. The firm also has declined any efforts to research the effects of this contamination on the health of Stanly County residents.
Throughout the relicensing process, Alcoa has argued that the contamination issue is separate from its relicensing effort. The Stanly County Board of Commissioners disagrees and believes it should be considered as part of its review.
Currently the state Environmental Review Commission (ERC) is studying the impacts on the State of North Carolina if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grants Alcoa the license for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project. Among the areas it is examining is the assurance of an adequate, clean future water supply for the region. Stanly County Commissioners urge ERC members and others interested in this project to review the Google Map, see how many communities have faced similar contamination situations worldwide that had to be rectified by government action against Alcoa and consider whether having to do the same for the Yadkin River is a good impact for the State of North Carolina and its citizens in the long run.
“This map is a disturbing group of incidents similar to what we face in Stanly County that make me worry about the trend Alcoa has in other parts of the world in exploiting the natural resources at the expense of the environment,” said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant. “The same must not happen here on the Yadkin River. But given the firm’s inability to be transparent with us on the board about what wastes it has in what areas near Badin Lake, along with reports from several scientific studies indicating contamination in the water supply, I fear that it will never be held accountable for its action unless federal and state officials and leaders intervene and force Alcoa to take action.”
About This Effort:
In 1958, Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, secured a federal hydroelectric license for the Yadkin Project on the Yadkin River in Stanly, Davidson, Montgomery and Rowan Counties in the Central Piedmont. In return, Alcoa promised aluminum manufacturing jobs for Stanly County for years to come. Alcoa has now disappeared as a major employer in the region and shut down its manufacturing plant, but it wants to continue reaping—for another 50 years-- the benefits of the Yadkin River after its license expired in April of this year. In addition, Alcoa discharged hazardous pollutants into North Carolina air and waterways for decades while harvesting immense profits from the Yadkin River and its smelting operations, but has yet to finish cleaning up that contamination. It has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to obtain another 50-year license. If Alcoa is successful, one of North Carolina’s most valuable water resources will be used to maximize Alcoa’s profits, instead of being used to benefit the people of North Carolina, who should be able to use their own natural resources to assure they enjoy the affordable electricity, local economic development, and clean, adequate drinking water available from alternative ownership of the Yadkin River Project.