Dec 29, 2010

River Network Ranks Yadkin Among Top 10 River Protection Stories in 2010

North Carolina revoked company's water quality permit due to suspicious e-mails

River Network, a national watershed protection movement, ranked efforts to clean up the Yadkin River, specifically the N.C. Division of Water Quality’s revoke of Alcoa’s water quality permit, as one of the top 10 river protection stories of 2010. The denial of the 401 Water Quality Certification on Dec. 2 has stymied Alcoa’s federal re-licensing application for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, which is dependent upon receiving the state permit.

“I am humbled by this honor and greatly appreciate receiving it,” said Dean Naujoks of the Yadkin Riverkeeper. “The revocation was a major triumph for us this year. The revelation that Alcoa lied to DWQ officials led to the corporation to not only lose its permit, but also forced it to defend how truthful it has been with the signers of the Relicensing Settlement Agreement as well as state officials. Its environmental promises have proven to be false with these e-mails, and its creditability is in doubt now throughout its future efforts.”

Alcoa plans to appeal the decision, despite allegations of e-mails that indicate the project would not comply with state water quality standards for dissolved oxygen. During the appeal, Naujoks is encouraging all RSA stakeholders to legally withdraw from the original agreement due to the allegations that Alcoa lied. This will assist in supporting efforts to legally recapture the water rights for the Yadkin River by the citizens of North Carolina, he said.

Alcoa, a multinational corporation based out of Pittsburgh, first obtained a 50-year license in 1958 to oversee what is known as the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, comprised of four hydroelectric stations, dams and reservoirs along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River in central North Carolina. Alcoa is pursuing renewal of its license to control the waters of the Yadkin River, its lakes and tributaries, and the surrounding lands for another 50 years, even though Alcoa has permanently shut down its Badin Works smelting plant.

Yadkin Riverkeeper has called on the company to allow for proper and necessary environmental investigation of the site. Besides the low oxygen level issue, Naujoks charges that in the decades that Alcoa operated its smelter in Badin, N.C., the company discharged cancer-causing pollutants into the air, lands and waterways.