Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Welcome to the Grasse River remediation site. This online resource provides both technical detail and answers to commonly asked questions for the Grasse River area community. If this is your first time visiting www.thegrasseriver.com, these points should provide a quick overview to the project and its key details.

Why is a cleanup of the Grasse River necessary?

Elevated levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) have been found in the Grasse River. PCBs were historically used in many hydraulic and other systems, as was common in many industrial companies and processes across the nation during the 1950s and 1960s. The EPA found that consumption of fish with elevated PCBs levels from the Grasse River presented a potential risk. There is currently an "eat no fish" NYSDOH advisory on the Grasse River from the Power Canal down to the mouth where it enters the St. Lawrence.

Read more about the project in the project overview.

What is the Superfund program?

EPA began the Superfund program in 1980 to eliminate potential threats to human health and the environment from hazardous substances that had been released as a result of historic disposal practices. The EPA works closely with communities, the companies responsible for the releases, scientists, researchers, contractors, and state, local, tribal, and federal authorities.

See more about the history of this process in the project timeline.

Where is the Grasse River in this process?

On April 5, 2013, EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Grasse River which outlines the cleanup plan that Arconic will implement. The ROD is consistent with the plan proposed in October 2012. The plan calls for dredging of some near-shore sediments, capping in the main channel, and armored capping in ice scour prone sections of the river. The plan is estimated to cost approximately $240 million, and take an estimated four construction seasons to implement once in-river construction begins.

The ROD is available at EPA's website. (By clicking this link, you will leave the Alcoa Grasse River Project website.)

The in-river remediation portion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) selected remedy for the lower Grasse River began in spring 2019 and is anticipated to take 3-4 years to complete. The overall goal of the project is to reduce polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels in fish and other organisms in the river for the long-term protection of human health and the environment.

What is habitat assessment?

The process of studying the plant and animal life that lives in the river to determine how it uses the resource so that usage can be taken into consideration in the design of the habitat restoration component of the remediation project.

What is habitat restoration/reconstruction?

Elements will be incorporated into the project design to support re-establishment of plants and animals that live in the river following the completion of the cleanup. Specific examples include restoring near shore area to pre-cleanup depth, re-planting aquatic vegetation in certain areas, and using materials of construction in the cap and backfill materials that can be re-colonized by aquatic organisms.

What about the sturgeon?

Arconic has coordinated with the regulatory agencies on what specific measures will need to be taken to protect sturgeon. The primary means to protect sturgeon includes not performing work in the most upstream work areas until mid-June to avoid this area during the spawning season.

Once the project is complete will the staging area/boat ramp become public property?

A portion of the staging area will become public property. There will be a boat ramp and floating pier, an elevated deck for fishing, and public parking for vehicles and boat trailers.

When will the in-river work start?

The in-river work started in spring 2019 and is anticipated to take 3-4 years to complete.

What are the working hours (of the in-river work)?

The majority of 2020 construction activities are planned for 6 days per week, for 12 hours per day. Some activities will need to be conducted 24 hours per day in order to preserve the work that was done in 2019. Work will generally be performed upstream to downstream in the target areas, and most upstream area work will not start until mid-June to protect lake sturgeon.

What will conditions be like during work? Noise? Lights?

Arconic is working with J.F. Brennan to limit construction noise, as possible. Noise monitoring activities will be performed with results compared against U.S. EPA-approved criteria. Lighting will be needed for worker safety at the staging area.

Has a contractor been selected for the in-river portion of the project?

Yes, we have selected J.F. Brennan as the contractor. They have significant experience performing the type of remediation work that will be done at the Grasse River and has worked on other river systems, including the Fox River project in Wisconsin, where the remedial action was conducted adjacent to nearby residences.

Is J. F. Brennan local to Massena?

J.F. Brennan is headquartered in La Crosse, WI and was chosen for its extensive experience and expertise in environmental remediation projects of this nature. Massena-based Perras Companies will provide subcontracted services to Brennan.

How many jobs will the remediation project create?

The in-river portion of the remediation project is expected to create approximately 80 jobs, with approximately 30 of those jobs filled locally.

How can I be sure that there won't be health effects from air emissions?

Air and water monitoring will be performed during construction. Air monitoring will include PCBs, dust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Water monitoring will include PCBs and solids. Air and water results will be compared against U.S. EPA-approved criteria and available on the Grasse River website. Note: there will be water cloudiness during in-river work. Visible impacts will return to natural conditions after construction

Will I be able to use the river once work starts? Will it be safe to swim/boat/fish?

For safety reasons, no one should use the river in the vicinity of construction activities. The contractor will make accommodations for safe boat passage. The NYSDOH has prepared a handout regarding the safety of swimming in areas of the river outside the construction area. The NYSDOH fact sheet can be found on www.health.ny.gov (search for Grasse River).

How will the transport of material from the staging area to the landfill impact traffic along the Alcoa Road?

Arconic is working with J.F. Brennan and local agencies to minimize impacts to the community. The work will result in an increased level of traffic, and we ask that everyone exercise caution when driving in the vicinity of the project.