Lax state oversight puts vulnerable North Carolina community at risk

North Carolina's Badin Lake, popular for fishing and recreation, is threatened by unchecked runoff from a shuttered Alcoa plant in West Badin. (© Ed Brenner)

For years, Alcoa’s use and disposal of several harmful substances at its aluminum smelting site in West Badin, an African-American community near Badin Lake, North Carolina, went largely unchecked. A new proposed permit for pollution runoff from the shuttered plant is under review by the state and comments submitted this week by SELC highlight several problems with the permit’s current iteration.

Monitoring data shows that cyanide, fluoride, and trichloroethylene are being discharged into nearby Badin Lake and Little Mountain Creek, both of which are already state-designated impaired waterways. A drainage system carries contaminated groundwater from beneath the Alcoa facility and its onsite landfill to outfalls in the nearby waterways, which are used for recreation and fishing.

To this day, the state has made no complete determination of the extent and composition of waste on the Alcoa site nor has the company taken substantial action to address what contamination remains.

To address these concerns, SELC submitted comments to the state on behalf of our partners, Concerned Citizens of West Badin Community and Yadkin Riverkeeper.  The comments request the state to set limits on harmful pollutants from each of the 11 wastewater discharge points originating on the Alcoa site. The comments also request an analysis at each of the discharge points, since the state has not fully assessed the extent of dumping or composition of dumped materials at the Alcoa landfill. Even without that full assessment, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality is aware that PCBs, a known carcinogen, were discharged from the Alcoa facility, yet the proposed permit contains no limit on PCBs. Our comments request a limit that protects the people and natural resources of the area be included in the permit.

In addition to these environmental issues, the DEQ permit raises concerns under the Civil Rights Act because the state’s disregard for public health has a disparate impact on racial minorities in the area near the smelting facility.

DEQ has until Dec. 7, when it is expected to issue a new permit, to consider comments.

Listen to Senior Attorney Chandra Taylor discuss the Alcoa's legacy of pollution in West Badin.

More News

Groundbreaking settlement agreement reached on Raleigh-area toll highway

SELC announced today that it signed a historic settlement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation on behalf of its clients Clean Air...

New EPA rule limits states’ ability to protect against pollution

An administration’s proposal published today in the Federal Register would greatly limit the authority of states to insist on full information ab...

Solar victory in Oxford, Ga., means lower bills for rooftop solar customers

A small Georgia city became a lot more solar-friendly earlier this year when the Oxford City Council voted to get rid of the city-owned utility’s...

SELC challenges Siler City water quality permit

On July 24, 2019, SELC filed documents outlining the issues before the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings in a case challenging a North Carol...

SELC shares Georgians’ concerns about proposed titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp

This week, back-to-back public meetings in southeast Georgia drew large crowds from all over the state with concerns about a proposed titanium mi...

Moving N.C. toward clean energy a necessary step to combat climate change

SELC issued the following statement regarding today’s release of a draft clean energy plan by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Qual...

More Stories