Alcoa offers responses to health concerns raised in video forum

Following a video forum earlier this week, where former Alcoa workers raised alarms about buried hazardous waste throughout the town of Badin, especially the West Badin community, Alcoa offered responses to questions from The Stanly News & Press.

Regarding concerns about health problems former workers have encountered, including cancer and asbestosis, being connected to prolonged exposure to hazardous waste, Shannon Debes, external affairs manager with Alcoa Transformation, said the company, which opened its aluminum smelting operation in Badin in 1917, “actively works to address stakeholder questions regarding our former operations at Badin, including those of our former employees.”

“The smelter has been closed for more than 15 years, and since and before that time, we have worked closely with state and federal regulators to identify potential waste sites and support protection of the environment and people,” Debes added.

Onsite landfills “have undergone significant remedial action since closure and have ongoing maintenance and monitoring,” she continued. “Potential risks to human health and the environment have been addressed, as evidenced by investigations and remedial activities that have been supervised by state environmental regulators. We continue to monitor stormwater and groundwater around the former plant site and remain committed to protecting water quality.”

Several organizations, including Concerned Citizens of West Badin, Southern Environmental Law CenterProtect Badin Lake, Yadkin Riverkeeper and Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, have advocated for Alcoa to clean up the hazardous waste sites. Contaminants from these sites, such as cyanide and fluoride, continue to leak into nearby bodies of water, including Badin Lake. 

They have also asked for other changes related to Alcoa’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permit, which it reapplied for last year, including monitoring for a wider range of contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals, and removing discharge points in close proximity to public swimming areas, such as Outfalls 012 and 013.

Debes said Alcoa “meets regularly with a variety of community organizations to share information and solicit feedback at our quarterly community meetings that include the Yadkin Riverkeeper and others.”

As part of those meetings, “we review the work we have completed and the ongoing monitoring related to the facility’s former operations. We have also participated in a facilitated stakeholder process with interested groups and will continue to engage with those who would like to learn more about our environmental and community activities.”

The video forum, entitled “Poisoned Land, Poisoned Water: A Legacy of Environmental Injustice and Racism in a North Carolina Company Town,” was hosted by Reimagining America Project, a local organization that uses testimony, witnessing and atonement to combat systemic racism.