DEQ, Alcoa Announce PCB Cleanup Schedule
by Allan Brettman
Alcoa will remove freshwater clams from its property on the Columbia River shore this winter as a first step in speeding cleanup of a contaminated site, officials said today.
And November 2008 -- the next possible "fish window" -- the company will remove contaminated sediments along the river. The fish window is the time of year when dredging and other in-water work can be done without harming fish and other aquatic life.
Both actions are intended to eliminate potential human exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls next to the former Alcoa aluminum smelter in Vancouver, said officials who announced the plan.
It's important to remove the sediment and the clams, which tests have shown are contaminated with dangerously high levels of PCBs, because of the possibility the chemical will move up the food chain, Jay Manning, Washington state Department of Ecology director, said in a conference call this morning. Alcoa officials also participated in the announcement.
Manning acknowledged that state Ecology officials have known for at least 10 years that PCBs were located along the Columbia River shoreline next to the 218-acre Alcoa site. But he defended Alcoa, noting that the company has spent $42 million since 1988 cleaning up areas away from the river. That cleanup took priority over the riverside, Manning said, to remove the possibility of continued leaching of contaminants into the river.
In the past 10 years, however, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa has focused its Washington cleanup efforts on its Intalco smelter in Ferndale. That site was deemed more of a toxic threat than the Vancouver site, Manning said.
"We always intended to come back to Vancouver," Manning said, though he added that recent news reports prompted today's announcement of an accelerated cleanup plan.
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