For decades, three industrial facilities in Massena, New York have released hazardous substances to the St. Lawrence River environment. The facilities include Alcoa West, Alcoa East (the former Reynolds Metals Corporation), and the General Motors Central Foundry (together, the Facilities). Production wastes and associated contaminants (including, but not limited to, PCBs, PAHs, fluoride, and metals) from these Facilities were disposed of through outfalls into rivers and streams, in on-site disposal sites, and via aerial emissions. These contaminants were then transported throughout the environment via hydrological, aerial, and biological pathways, exposing and causing corresponding injury to natural resources. Some remediation of this contamination has occurred under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; additional remedial actions are still under review.
Facility-related contamination was sufficient to cause a loss in the baseline ecological services (i.e., level of services but for contamination) provided by assessment area resources such as sediment (macroinvertebrates), fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Service losses, based on adverse effects such as reductions in growth, reproduction, and survival were estimated using site-specific and literature-based studies. Exposure and effects information was sufficient to quantify losses to sediment, fish, birds, and some semi-aquatic mammals. Quantified losses were then scaled to reflect the range in
severity and magnitude of these effects at different contaminant concentrations for each resource. In addition, remedial activities have resulted in quantifiable impacts to assessment area resources. Habitat equivalency analysis (HEA) was used to quantify the present value of losses from 1981 through the reasonable expected recovery of the resource (2106), and to scale restoration. Data on exposure and effects of Facility-related contaminants on other resources (e.g., amphibians, reptiles) are sufficient to indicate injury but are insufficient for quantification. Therefore, likely losses incurred by these other resources were evaluated qualitatively and addressed in the context of restoration.
Grasse River Remedial Options Pilot Study, Credit: NOAA