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Tribal council updates ambient air standards for Superfund site clean up.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council has put into place additional air monitoring requirements as work begins this year at the former General Motors site in Massena.

Previously, the ambient air standard for polychlorinated biphenyls--the measurement of acceptable air quality--was 5 nanograms per cubic meter during a 24-hour period.

Now, the Tribal Council has signed a resolution that establishes a tribal law governing the ambient air standards. Under the law, the ambient air standard of 0.5 nanograms per cubic meter would be an acceptable air quality over a 12-month, annual basis in the Territory of Akwesasne.

The Tribal Council also affirmed the previous standard of 5 nanograms per cubic meter, which could not be exceeded during any 24-hour period for cleanup or other actions.

"It separates it into two short-term standards," said Brendan White, the tribe's director of communications. "From discussions that the Tribal Council and our Environment Division have had with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), it has resulted in additional monitors being placed at Raquette Point."

Any violation of the updated ambient air standards would result in a hearing in the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Court that could result in a civil penalty of up to $250,000 for violation of the annual standard and up to $25,000 for each violation of the short-term standard. That penalty had not been in place previously, according to Mr. White.

A release from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe said scientific studies and newly conducted research made it necessary for the Tribal Council to update its ambient air standard that had initially been adopted 28 years ago.

"With work starting at the General Motors Superfund Site to excavate the 10-million-gallon lagoon, additional measures need to be taken to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of our community members," Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance said in the release.

"Last year, we saw an exceedance of air levels as PCBs evaporated and were released into the air during construction of the landfill to permanently cap contaminated materials," he said. "To combat this, our ambient air standard has been strengthened to now specify two levels of air quality that are enforceable under tribal law."

Mr. White said that, when a berm was being built up last summer and a shell was put over contaminated materials that were being left on-site, "PCBs were evaporating into the air and at the same time being inhaled by our community members downwind."

Tribal officials say scientific health studies involving Akwesasne residents have shown PCB exposure among tribal members to be correlated with reduced memory and thyroid function, altered growth and development in children and adolescents, and has caused increases in obesity, production of serum cholesterol and triglycerides, which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

The Tribal Council, meanwhile, continued to urge the EPA to completely remove all contaminated materials "in a responsible and timely manner in accordance with tribal laws and regulations from the General Motors Superfund Site, as well as from the Grasse River Superfund Site attributed to Alcoa."

Construction work began this spring and will last until early 2018 in order to prepare for Arconic's (formerly Alcoa's) remediation of the Grasse River. The EPA's approximately $245 million plan includes capping over the majority of contaminated sediments in the river's main channel.

The proposed plan also involves dredging approximately 109,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment in areas close to the shore. In the river's center, approximately 225 acres of sediment would be capped with clean sand and gravel to isolate the contamination.

Another 59 acres would receive an additional "armored cap" of large rocks to further isolate that area's contamination.

Source: Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times
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Author:Beckstead, Bob
Publication:Hazardous Waste Superfund Alert
Date:May 19, 2017
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