MASSENA – Alcoa announced Thursday that it will pay the state Department of Environmental Conservation $40,000 for an air-quality violation recorded earlier this year.
The Massena Operations East Plant registered a reading in April of 2.66 pounds of fluoride per ton of aluminum produced, which exceeds the state minimum fluoride emission of 2.4 pounds per ton, according to Alcoa spokeswoman Susan T. LaClair. The aluminum company tests and reports emissions three times each month.
Fluoride is a potentially poisonous byproduct of aluminum production. It’s created by a carbon anode, a composition of petroleum and coal variations produced on site, according to Alcoa officials. Most of the fluoride is captured and treated, but some is released into the atmosphere.
Faulty equipment affected the carbon anode quality and caused the fluoride overage.
“We have improved the equipment reliability and carbon quality,” since then, Ms. LaClair said Thursday, and further repairing and rebuilding continues.
Alcoa was last fined for fluoride emissions in 2002, Ms. LaClair said. In 1998, it agreed to pay DEC $57,000 to settle a dispute surrounding Alcoa’s adherence to a 1973 consent order that allowed more fluoride to be released than the state minimum at that time.
In the 1980s, the Mohawk tribe settled for $464,000 from Alcoa after agreeing not to sue the company for damage to cattle and vegetation.
Fluoride settles in grass and is believed to harm grazing cows. A 1979 study by Cornell University, Ithaca, found the cows on Cornwall Island were suffering from severe fluoride poisoning.
“The East Plant operates within a very tight emissions limit set by the federal government for horizontal stud Soderberg-technology,” said Primary Metals Plant Manager Wesley N. Oberholzer in a press release. “Our workforce strives to operate below the emission limits and continually monitors processes. This is a regrettable occurrence and we continue to work diligently to address the root cause of the exceedance.”