Alcoa Moves to Protect Rare Plant Found Only Along Yadkin River

In the shadow of the 96-year-old Narrows Dam, biologists fanned out across the rocky banks of the Yadkin River earlier this fall searching for the Yadkin River goldenrod, a plant once lost to science and only found sporadically along a 2.5-mile stretch of shoreline on the Stanly-Montgomery county line.

The plant’s only known population in the world occurs on the banks of Falls Reservoir on land exclusively owned by Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI). The company recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to help ensure the wildflower doesn’t go extinct but instead has every opportunity to thrive.

“We saw an opportunity to do some simple things that would mean a lot for the future of the river’s namesake goldenrod,” said Karen Baldwin of APGI. “By being good stewards of this plant now, we’re doing our part to keep if off the endangered species list in the future.”

The agreement comes as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service makes strides toward proactively conserving rare species before they need to be listed on the Federal endangered species list. Taking steps to conserve a plant or animal before listing enables and encourages states, private landowners, Federal agencies, and other partners to play a central role in determining the best way to conserve these at-risk species. Such an approach is cheaper than trying to recover plants and animals that have declined further, and also avoids the need for increased protections afforded by placement on the endangered species list.

"This is a good example of how we can work together with the private sector to proactively conserve species to the point where federal protection is not needed,” said Leopoldo Miranda, the Service’s assistant regional director for ecological services in the Southeast Region. “Here in the Southeast we are evaluating hundreds of species for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. Proactive partnerships with the states and the private sector, as demonstrated here, can be replicated throughout the Southeast.”

As part of the agreement, APGI will take several steps to protect the Yadkin River goldenrod. It will annually control invasive exotic plants that threaten to out-compete the rare goldenrod; post the area for anglers tempted to leave their boats and venture onto the APGI-owned shoreline; and support efforts to annually monitor the plant’s well-being. Additionally, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will work with the N.C. Plant Conservation Program to explore opportunities to harvest and spread seed to boost the existing population.

The goldenrod was first discovered in 1894 and wasn’t seen again for several decades until two state biologists independently rediscovered it in 1994. Due to its extremely limited distribution, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service considered placing it on the Federal endangered species list, but declined due to a lack of threats.

“At one point, we considered this species safe because of the low-level of threats, however in more recent years that has changed, threats are increasing, and thankfully APGI wants to step in to help,” said Mark Cantrell, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Invasive exotic plants, such as Mimosa, privet, bush honeysuckle, and Japanese honeysuckle have taken root on the shoreline. These plants aren’t native to the area, but the lack of natural controls and rapid and prolific reproduction enables them to spread and dominate an area to the detriment of native plants. As the number of people in the area has grown, the site has seen increased activity by anglers, who occasionally leave their boats and enter APGI property, where they may inadvertently trample the rare plants.

Due to these increased threats, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service designated the goldenrod a candidate for the Federal endangered species list in 2005. However, the agreement signed between APGI and the Service, called a Candidate Conservation Agreement, is designed to avoid that fate by implementing a series of pro-active conservation measures to protect the plant.

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Alcoa must be required to clean up toxic waste

The Yadkin Project spans 40 miles from High Rock Lake, through Tucker town Reservoir, Badin Lake and Falls Reservoir. Lake Tillery is located below Falls Reservoir which state data has revealed elevated levels of PCB’s in fish tested in Lake Tillery. In January 2012, NC DENR acknowledged in a letter that Alcoa dumped two PCB-laden capacitors into Falls Reservoir. “One capacitor had ruptured resulting in PCB contamination” the letter stated. PCBs cause cancer and serious health issues for young children and the developing fetuses of pregnant women. NC DENR recognizes that these carcinogens are in the water and are in the fish. Concerns have been raised that PCB’s are more than likely being ingested by anglers unaware of this serious problem,

Tests show dangerously high levels of PCBs in fish from the Yadkin River lake system. Fish-tissue sampling revealed PCB levels that were 100 percent greater than state health standards for safe fish consumption. NC DENR knows about the contamination, and the danger it causes for local citizens. The agency took appropriate steps by posting fish consumption warning signs at the boat ramp in Badin Lake but has yet to issue fish consumption advisories for Falls Reservoir or Lake Tillery where PCB’s have been linked to Alcoa and is where the highest levels of PCB’s in fish were detected. State data also indicated PCB contamination in fish tested in High Rock Lake.

For 90 years, Alcoa owned and operated an aluminum smelter along the banks the Yadkin River. During that time, cyanide, fluoride, PCB’s, PAH’s and other toxins, including arsenic, were generated and disposed of through Alcoa’s 13 outfall pipes to Badin Lake. Hazardous materials were also buried throughout Badin at 44 identified locations, which are capped, but not lined. As a result, buried waste continues to contaminate the soil, ground and enter surface water, years after aluminum production has ceased.

In 2009, due to the toxic outputs caused by the smelter, the state posted fish consumption advisories on Badin Lake warning against the dangers of consuming largemouth bass and/or catfish over 6oz. Through vigorous testing, research and evidentiary discovery, it was revealed at trial Alcoa misled state and federal officials, regarding compliance with dissolved oxygen in its 401 Water Quality Certification, which led to the state’s revocation of Alcoa’s 401 Water Quality Certificate in December 2010.

The state’s most recent PCB fish and sediment testing indicates the Yadkin Hydro Electric Project operated by Alcoa is contaminated—from High Rock Lake down to Lake Tillery. There are currently no plans to address the broad scope of this contamination problem.

Any plan that involves the protection of an endangered species should also require Alcoa to clean up its extensive contamination in Badin Lake, Falls Reservoir and Lake Tillery.

Alcoa must be required to clean up toxic waste

For 90 years, Alcoa owned and operated an aluminum smelter along the banks the Yadkin River. During that time, cyanide, fluoride, PCB’s, PAH’s and other toxins, including arsenic, were generated and disposed of through Alcoa’s 13 outfall pipes to Badin Lake. Hazardous materials were also buried throughout Badin at 44 identified locations, which are capped, but not lined. As a result, buried waste continues to contaminate the soil, ground and enter surface water, years after aluminum production has ceased.

In 2009, due to the toxic outputs caused by the smelter, the state posted fish consumption advisories on Badin Lake warning against the dangers of consuming largemouth bass and/or catfish over 6oz. Through vigorous testing, research and evidentiary discovery, it was revealed at trial Alcoa misled state and federal officials, regarding compliance with dissolved oxygen in its 401 Water Quality Certification, which led to the state’s revocation of Alcoa’s 401 Water Quality Certificate in December 2010.

The state’s most recent PCB fish and sediment testing indicates the Yadkin Hydro Electric Project operated by Alcoa is contaminated—from High Rock Lake down to Lake Tillery. There are currently no plans to address the broad scope of this contamination problem.

The Yadkin Project spans 40 miles from High Rock Lake, through Tucker town Reservoir, Badin Lake and Falls Reservoir. Lake Tillery is located below Falls Reservoir which state data has revealed elevated levels of PCB’s in fish tested in Lake Tillery and Falls Reservoir. In January 2012, NC DENR acknowledged in a letter to that Alcoa dumped two PCB-laden capacitors into Falls Reservoir. “One capacitor had ruptured resulting in PCB contamination” the letter stated. PCBs cause cancer and serious health issues for young children and the developing fetuses of pregnant women. NC DENR recognizes that these carcinogens are in the water and are in the fish. Concerns have been raised that PCB’s are more than likely being ingested by anglers unaware of this serious problem,

Tests show dangerously high levels of PCBs in fish from the Yadkin River lake system. Fish-tissue sampling revealed PCB levels that were 100 percent greater than state health standards for safe fish consumption. NC DENR knows about the contamination, and the danger it causes for local citizens. The agency took appropriate steps by posting fish consumption warning signs at the boat ramp in Badin Lake in 2009 but has yet to issue fish consumption advisories for Falls Reservoir or Lake Tillery where PCB’s have been linked to Alcoa and is where the highest levels of PCB’s in fish were detected. State data also indicated PCB contamination in fish tested in High Rock Lake.

Any plan to protect endangered species should also require Alcoa to clean up the toxic waste it disposed of in and around the Yadkin River.

NC Wild Life Resource Commission Opposes Alcoa

The NC Wildlife Resource Commission recently officially withdrew its support from Alcoa's relicensing settlement agreement to operate the dams on the Yadkin River for another 50 years. The unanimous decision, from the most important state agency regarding protection of fish and wildlife, was based on Alcoa's contamination, particularly PCB contaminated fish throughout the Yadkin Project as well as Alcoa's attempts to mislead state officials in 2010 about the dam operations complying with dissolved oxygen requirements, critical to all life in the  River.

But...

...Should we not credit Alcoa when it does something good?  Does not a constant attack dampen motivation?

What???????????

So there are no other industries/farms/ along this river? No other run-off that could carry waste into this river?
 
 

Credit Alcoa?

Rewarding Alcoa for only slightly reducing pollutants is like gifting a bully for hitting me only in the gut but not in the face. Where has our common sense and logic gone? Are people really so beaten down by the big polluters that they are happy when the bullies take a smoke break from beating the crap out of the environment? Perhaps society is simply punch drunk. Sad, so sad.

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