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State scheduled public hearing for Alcoa’s Badin Works

Next week, residents of communities along the Yadkin River will have a shot to voice their thoughts on a shuttered industrial facility that may be leaking chemicals into river water.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will have a public hearing on July 1 for a wastewater and stormwater permit at Alcoa’s Badin Works facility, located in Stanly County. The permit would allow the facility to continue discharging water into an unnamed tributary of Little Mountain Creek and Badin Lake in the Yadkin River Basin.

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 1 at Stanly Commons — 100 North First St. in Albemarle. It will be in the county commissioners’ meeting room.

Badin Works has been a focal point in Alcoa’s efforts to renew operating licenses for hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River. Badin works operated as an aluminum smelter plant until July 2007. It was powered by Alcoa’s hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River. After it ceased production, Alcoa attempted to renew its operating license for the hydroelectric dams, but was blocked by state government.

This month, an administrative judge ruled that the state must act within 30 days on a water quality certificate that’s needed for Alcoa to renew its operating license. If granted, the company could continue operating its dams for 50 years.

However, environmental groups have serious concerns about the water that’s allowed to seep into the nearby tributary. Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott says data shows Badin Works discharging more than 500 pounds of cyanide a year from “stormwater outfalls.”

“Giving Alcoa a more lenient permit goes against what the Clean Water Act requires,” Scott said. “The (Clean Water Act) does not allow “backsliding” or more lenient permits to be given to actors who consistently violate the Act.”

Scott said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources needs to impose cyanide limits on stormwater and groundwater that consistently exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s cyanide levels. He said no cyanide limits exist for several locations at the Badin Works site, meaning the state won’t issue violations for cyanide levels, even if they violate certain Environmental Protection Agency limits.

“Stormwater is not supposed to contain levels of cyanide like this,” he said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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