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Grasse River cleanup plan due soon

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MASSENA — The proposal to remediate the polluted Grasse River will be released “very soon,” according to environmental officials.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finished exploring 10 different cleanup alternatives, ranging from a “do-nothing” option costing nothing to one costing nearly $1 billion, spokeswoman Larisa W. Romanowski previously said.

Several alternatives are in the $200 million to $300 million range and involve a combination of dredging and capping contaminated areas of the river. Alcoa will fund whichever cleanup option is chosen.

For more than 20 years, Alcoa has worked with state and federal agencies to clean up contaminated areas near its Massena East and West Plants, and cleaning up a several-mile stretch of the Grasse is the next stop in that process.

In August, EPA promised to release its preferred cleanup option by Oct. 1. The agency will then hold community meetings and gather public comments before reaching a final decision on the process. That deliberation may take a couple of months.

On Friday, EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears said details could come as soon as today; the plan is expected to be released next week. Public meetings will be held in Massena and on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation at the end of October, she said.

Alcoa had not received the proposal as of Friday afternoon and is looking forward to it, according to spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr.

“We’ve worked cooperatively with the EPA and other stakeholders for many years,” she said. “We’ll comment on it after we had the opportunity to review it.”

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer visited Massena in August and urged the EPA to “fast-track” the cleanup and for the agency to select a $200 million cleanup option.

He tied the cleanup to the proposed modernization of the Massena aluminum plants; Alcoa needs more information about the cleanup’s costs before it decides to modernize, Mr. Schumer said.

The sooner EPA informs Alcoa of the project costs, the better off Massena will be, Mr. Schumer said. Alcoa’s board of directors is to decide by March 31 whether to commit to a modernization of its Massena facilities.

Local staff are using the time between now and then to hammer out the details and make Massena as attractive as possible to corporate officers. Alcoa’s commitment to modernization could help retain employees and ensure the company’s future here for decades to come. Grasse River cleanup costs are one of several factors Alcoa will consider when it decides whether to modernize, Ms. Marr previously said.

There has been “much progress made” on the cleanup proposal, according to Jacob C. Terrance, who works for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Environmental Division.

He was pleased with the amount of input the tribal government was able to provide in EPA’s proposal, but declined comment on it until it is released.

The tribal government prefers a “more intense” remediation involving more dredging than Mr. Schumer’s $200 million option, Mr. Terrance previously said. Some sections of the EPA’s proposal will reflect the tribal government’s input, he said.

“There are certain sections where we had to have much discussion with EPA to include our point of view,” he said.

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