Trustees Settle Natural Resource Damage Claims Arising from Hazardous Substances Releases into St. Lawrence Environment, St. Lawrence County, New York

Last edited 09/25/2020


Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), shown here being restocked in the St. Lawrence watershed, is a long-lived freshwater sturgeon native to the area. Restoration of spawning habitat and restocking of lake sturgeon in the watershed, including Salmon, Grasse, St. Regis and Raquette Rivers, is being undertaken as part of the recreational fishing restoration effort in the St. Lawrence Environment. Photo credit: NOAA.

On July 17, 2013, the federal, State and Tribal natural resource trustees settled natural resource damage claims with two parties arising from hazardous substances releases into St. Lawrence River watershed, near Massena, St. Lawrence County, in northern New York. The settling parties are Alcoa, Inc. and Reynolds Metals Company. The settlement is embodied in a Consent Decree that was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

The natural resource trustees involved in this case include:

  • St. Regis Mohawk Tribe;
  • State of New York, represented by New York Department of Environmental Conservation;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pollution from former, large industrial manufacturing facilities in Massena, New York, has contaminated soils, sediments, groundwater and surface waters in the St. Lawrence Environment. The 2,700-acre Alcoa West aluminum products manufacturing facility released hazardous substances, including PCBs, onto the facility property and into Grasse River. The 1,600-acre Reynolds Metals aluminum ore refining facility, now operated by Alcoa, discharged various types of hazardous wastes, including PAHs, into St. Lawrence River.

The trustees determined that the hazardous substances released by these industrial operations injured natural resources, including sediment, fish, birds, amphibians and mammals. Natural resource services -- including recreational fishing and Tribal cultural uses -- were also injured.

Cleanup of this contamination is being undertaken pursuant to a Unilateral Administrative Order issued by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This UAO requires Alcoa to investigate the contamination and implement remedial actions.

Under this settlement for natural resource damages in the entered Consent Decree, the settling parties will:

  • Pay $933,950 for trustees’ past assessment costs, including $638,644.25 for DOI past costs;
  • Pay $7,279,883 for natural resource restoration projects;
  • Pay $8,387,898 for Tribal cultural restoration projects;
  • Acquire and transfer title to the State two parcels of land: the Coles Creek parcel and Wilson Hill parcel; and,
  • Implement 6 recreational fishing restoration projects.

The total monetary value of the settlement is estimated at $19,165,981.

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