WARRICK COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT)- Two environmental agencies have sent a notice of intent to sue Alcoa in Warrick County, for alleged actions by its aluminum melting plant. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project say Alcoa has been dumping illegal amounts of Mercury in the the Ohio River for years.
“It is an important metal to our society, and it is really important for the future of clean energy and transportation that we all need, but that does not mean it should be a dirty metal,” says Nadia Steinzor, a researcher and policy analysist with the Environmental Integrity Project.
Steinzor says Alcoa is not using Mercury as a separate metal. She says it is created when they burn coal and is when making aluminum.
The groups say Alcoa’s aluminum smelting plant violations date back for years. In a release, they say Alcoa violated its water pollution control permit at least 101 times between 2018 and 2023. It also says 32 violations happened between 2022 and 2023, for releasing illegal amounts of Mercury into the Ohio River.
“The Ohio River belongs to everybody. It is not just Alcoa’s river. It is not just their place to dump pollution with impunity,” says Joab Schultheis, who lives near the river and is the Energy Committee chair for the Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club.
Mercury is a neurotoxin. Experts say it can have adverse effects on your health, even if ingested in small amounts, especially if you are pregnant.
“I am sure you have seen fish advisories for pregnant women. They should not eat fish because of mercury. So it has a whole range of health affects and it is pretty bad for wildlife too,” Steinzor says.
The group say federal law requires them to send a notice to Alcoa at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit. If Alcoa does not address these issues, the groups say the company could face over $64,000 in fines per day of violations.
Eyewitness News reached out to Alcoa for comment, and they sent us the following statement “Alcoa Corp. is committed to operating in compliance with all applicable legal requirements, and we consistently work with regulatory authorities in a transparent manner.”