Quad City Times Editorial
Read the entire editorial on Alcoa's remediation efforts.
Decades-Long Remediation Effort Underscores
A site-wide remediation project lasting more than 20 years at
Alcoa's Davenport Works in Iowa (USA) has resulted in long-term, cost-effective,
and sustainable solutions to a complex contamination issue. According to the
editorial board of the Quad City Times newspaper, Alcoa "didn't cut and
run" when faced with the challenge.
The Davenport facility opened in
1948, and, according to standard operating procedures of the day, disposed of
its industrial waste oil in an onsite holding pond. In the late 1970s, federal
and state environmental agencies established a link between the oil pond and
polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination of the nearby Mississippi River.
Alcoa embarked on a six-year cleanup of the 6.9 hectare (17-acre) pond
in the 1980s, but residual contamination remained. In the 1990s, the company
conducted a site-wide investigation under a consent order-a mutual
agreement-with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After conducting
risk assessments on more than 80 land- and water-based areas, the location and
the EPA identified less than 10 items that required remediation. These included
removal of an underground storage tank; clean up of contaminated soil associated
with the waste oil pump house, light bulb disposal area, and transformer
substations; capping of an industrial landfill; and remediation of onsite
The wetland remediation included a mitigation program that
replaced approximately 1.2 hectares (three acres) of marginal wetland habitat
lost as a result of the remedial actions with 5.7 hectares (14 acres) of
high-quality wetlands near the Princeton National Wildlife Refuge. The work was
conducted in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The site-wide investigation also revealed that chlorinated solvents
associated with a leaking above-ground storage tank were present in the site's
groundwater. Upon discovery of the leak, the location removed underlying
contaminated soil and began pumping and treating the groundwater. In parallel
with that effort, Alcoa established a goal of zero wastewater discharge and
built a new wastewater treatment facility at the plant.
efforts, which cost the company more than US$70 million, Alcoa measured and
reported the results to the EPA. By the early 2000s, PCB levels in the
Mississippi River surface sediments were reduced to acceptable limits.
In 2008, Alcoa and the EPA signed a consent decree-a closure
document-outlining the company's ongoing commitments. These include monitoring
the groundwater, pumping and treating the groundwater for chlorinated solvents
until it reaches drinking water standards, and monitoring fish and sediment in
the Mississippi River.
According to the Quad City Times
editorial, "What the consent decree shows is that Alcoa didn't cut and run. When
faced with a serious pollution concern, Alcoa acted to protect its significant
investment in the Davenport Works by spending more to meet water and air-quality
regulations. Those expenses boost our confidence that Alcoa is here for the long
haul. That-in addition to its valued community financial support-makes Alcoa our
quiet and valued neighbor."