NC to air study on PCB pollution in Yadkin River - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

NC to air study on PCB pollution in Yadkin River

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Fish in one of North Carolina's largest watersheds are more polluted by an industrial contaminant than previously reported and state health officials have failed to expand warnings against eating PBC-contaminated fish, according to a new study.
    
After more than a year of research and internal discussions, the state Department of Health and Human Services was scheduled to release its study of PCB contamination along a stretch of the Yadkin River near a shuttered aluminum smelter Alcoa Inc. operated for nearly a century. The study's release Monday comes the same day state environmental officials scheduled a community meeting near the closed smelter to discuss the research.
    
Environmentalists represented by Duke University law professor Ryke Longest collected data from the study under a public records request. He wrote State Health Director Laura Gerald two weeks ago, saying the agency has known the breadth of PCB pollution for some time and "has not acted to protect the public health" by expanding warnings against eating fish from two reservoirs in addition to the one where the notice has been posted since 2009.
    
"Every day in which fish consumption advisories are delayed is another day the public stands unprotected," Longest wrote.
    
State public health officials have warned since 2009 against eating largemouth bass and catfish caught in Badin Lake, located east of Charlotte, because they had elevated PCB levels. Alcoa contested the 2009 fish warnings in a state administrative court.
    
There also has been a statewide advisory since 2002 urging pregnant women and children under 15 against eating catfish or other species whose feeding results in mercury collecting in their bodies, state health officials said. Everyone else is encouraged to limit consumption of those fish.
    
"As the report that will be released Monday will substantiate, the existing fish consumption advisory for mercury is sufficient to protect the public health against the concentration of PCBs found in fish studied in High Rock Lake, Falls Reservoir, and Lake Tillery," DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said.
    
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are chemicals formerly used as coolants and transformer lubricants that were released into the environment through manufacturing, or improper disposal and storage of electrical equipment. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals, as well as affect their immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its web site. Human studies provide supportive evidence but are less definitive, the federal agency said.
    
Alcoa has acknowledged it likely is responsible for the PCB contamination in sediment near the defunct smelter on the southern shore of Badin Lake. But state officials said four years ago that most of the contaminated fish found in the lake came from its northern end. Health officials said the PCBs could have traveled by air and Alcoa said they might have come from upstream.
    
The study was intended to better pinpoint the problem.
    
"This is a watershed issue that is not specific to Alcoa, but associated with industrial and municipal discharges upstream," Alcoa relicensing manager E. Ray Barham said in a statement.
    
The study comes as state environmental regulators are considering whether to certify that the company's operation of four hydroelectric dams built decades ago to power the Alcoa smelter won't harm water quality in the Yadkin River. That certification is needed for Alcoa to renew its 50-year federal hydroelectric license.
    
A public hearing on the water quality certification is scheduled Tuesday in Albemarle.
    
Electricity generated by the dams no longer power the smelter, which once employed nearly 1,000. The power is now sold on the wholesale market and Alcoa keeps any profits.
    
Alcoa estimated in 2006 that the dams generated almost $44 million a year in revenues. Over 50 years, that could mean revenues of more than $2 billion, an amount that could multiply if demand for clean power booms. But Alcoa's financial statements and reports to federal regulators show revenues for each of the past five years have been below the 2006 estimate.
    
Alcoa recently covered a three-acre section of the Badin Lake bottom near the defunct aluminum smelter to keep PCBs there from moving. The sediments were no risk to humans and capping them prevented disturbance, the company said.
    
Environmental activists want state environmental regulators to force a full cleanup of the health-harming industrial contaminant so that the fish are safe to eat.

  • Franklin County accident causes lane closures on Brooks Mill Road

    Franklin County accident causes lane closures on Brooks Mill Road

    Franklin County accident causes lane closures on Brooks Mill Road

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 5:16 AM EDT2014-07-30 09:16:44 GMT
    FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS) - State Police are on the scene of an accident on Brooks Mill Road (Rt. 834) near the Ponderosa campground.
    FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS) - State Police are on the scene of an accident on Brooks Mill Road (Rt. 834) near the Ponderosa campground.
  • Fugitive sex offender captured in Roanoke

    Fugitive sex offender captured in Roanoke

    Fugitive sex offender captured in Roanoke

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 12:41 AM EDT2014-07-30 04:41:44 GMT
    ROANOKE (WSLS) - A man wanted for sex crimes against a minor was captured in Roanoke during a traffic stop.
    ROANOKE (WSLS) - A man wanted for sex crimes against a minor was captured in Roanoke during a traffic stop.
  • Roanoke Police investigate shots fired incident

    Roanoke Police investigate shots fired incident

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:37 PM EDT2014-07-30 02:37:03 GMT
    On July 29, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. Roanoke Police were dispatched to the 1200 block of Orange Avenue NE to investigate a shots fired call. Immediately upon arrival officers detained several subjects believed to have been involved in the incident. The preliminary investigation suggests the individuals involved were traveling in two different vehicles on Hollins Road when at least one of the occupants in one of the vehicles starting shooting at the other vehicle. The vehicles separated briefly and t...
    On July 29, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. Roanoke Police were dispatched to the 1200 block of Orange Avenue NE to investigate a shots fired call. Immediately upon arrival officers detained several subjects believed to have been involved in the incident. The preliminary investigation suggests the individuals involved were traveling in two different vehicles on Hollins Road when at least one of the occupants in one of the vehicles starting shooting at the other vehicle. The vehicles separated briefly and t...
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.