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Part of the 7.2 mile contaminated stretch of the Grasse. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Part of the 7.2 mile contaminated stretch of the Grasse. Photo: David Sommerstein.

Alcoa, Reynolds to pay $20M to clean up St. Lawrence

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Alcoa and Reynolds Metals will pay almost $20 million to restore habitat and wildlife on the St. Lawrence River near Massena. The settlement ends a more than 20-year-old lawsuit spearheaded by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

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For decades until the 1970s, Alcoa, Reynolds, and a third industrial giant, General Motors, released toxic chemicals, including PCBs, into the St. Lawrence River – just upriver from the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation.

The settlement gives the tribe, New York State, and the federal government more than $10 million for wetland restoration and improving bird and fish habitat along the St. Lawrence River. Alcoa and Reynolds will also pay $2 million to improve and build new boat launches on the Raquette and Grasse Rivers near Massena. (Read a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here.)

The settlement is unique for being the first of its kind in the country to provide money for cultural restoration, says Barbara Tarbell. She works for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe's environment division. Tarbell says the toxic chemicals destroyed a way of life for the Mohawk people.

"When we are so directly linked to the natural resources through our traditional resources such as fishing, hunting, trapping. When contamination became known, those activities were severed here, causing drastic changes in our community."

Tarbell says more than $8 million of the settlement will fund classes to pass on the Mohawk language, medicinal, nutritional, and other traditional teachings to younger generations.

Two informational meetings will be held next month about the settlement:

Next month, the trustees will hold informational public meetings on the restoration plan in Akwesasne and Massena:

April 17, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Office for the Aging
Senior’s Dining Hall
29 Business Park Road
Akwesasne, NY 13655
 
April 18, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Dar’s Place Banquet Hall, Quality Inn
10 W Orvis St.
Massena, NY  13662

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