BADIN — The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced last week that it has returned a Special Order By Consent application that was submitted by Badin Business Park LLC, a subsidiary of Alcoa.
While the company was hoping to strike a deal with the DEQ to lift the pollution violations filed by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission, the state agency’s Division of Water Resources stated in a Feb. 24 press release that “the SOC as drafted will not be moving forward.”
Badin Business Park’s proposal contained a plan to upgrade the existing stormwater system — a method that would have rerouted cyanide and fluoride discharge from a point in Little Mountain Creek to a point in Badin Lake. The company will now be asked to utilize a different option in order to comply with its current National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System discharge permit.
Alcoa provided SCJ with an official statement regarding the DEQ’s decision: “Badin Lake is a special place, and we know how much it means to the community. While our proposal would have ensured compliance with all regulations and would have been well within the limits to protect human health and the environment, we will work with local residents and the NC Department of Environmental Quality regarding the next steps in this process. Alcoa has been part of the Badin community for generations, and we are committed to fulfilling our environmental responsibilities and engaging with our stakeholders to find solutions.”
Chandra Taylor, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, says she believes the DEQ made the right decision by denying the proposal, but it must remain diligent in its mission to curb pollution.
“Now that the DEQ has returned this Special Order by Consent, it will be important for them to use their regulatory authority to actually require Alcoa to address the waste that has been left on site that’s actually causing surface water contamination,” Taylor told SCJ. “What we expect to see is that the DEQ would enforce the permit, and go beyond that to protect the environment and public health by pushing Alcoa to address the sources of contamination.”
During its official public comment period, the Division of Water Resources heard over 350 responses from citizens asking the DEQ to reject Alcoa’s proposal. In addition, over 3,500 signatures have been gathered in a Change.org petition started by a group of Badin residents known as “Protect Badin Lake.”
“The outpouring of vocal community opposition was likely influential,” Taylor said. “As public servants, it’s heartening to see that the DEQ is responsive to what the public has to say about environmental pollution. The community in West Badin has been advocating for years to get Alcoa to address the contamination on site. It’s good to see now that there has been a swift response by the state agency.”
Because the Special Order by Consent was denied, Badin Business Park will now be required to pay five separate permit penalties (totaling $2,328.80) that were assessed last fall; the fines were previously deferred during the proposal review process.