State regulators have issued a water quality certification to Alcoa that clears the way for renewal of a federal hydroelectric license on the Yadkin River.
The aluminum giant had sought the certification for years as it struggled with state and local governments over continued control of four Yadkin reservoirs east of Charlotte: High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls.
A state judge ruled last month that the Department of Environmental Quality had illegally denied the certification and ordered DEQ to act on Alcoa’s application within 30 days.
Days later, Alcoa also won a federal lawsuit in which the state claimed to own the bottom of the Yadkin.
Alcoa’s Ray Barham, the Yadkin relicensing manager, said the company will install water-quality technology and provide other environmental and recreational benefits under the terms of its expected federal license.
“We have been good stewards of the watershed for nearly 100 years and remain committed to meeting North Carolina water quality standards,” Barham said in a statement.
The state certification requires Alcoa to install devices to increase oxygen levels in the water, which fish and other aquatic life need in order to breathe. Past oxygen levels did not meet state standards.
Alcoa also has to monitor sediment to ensure that cancer-causing chemicals called PCBs aren’t carried downstream at the Narrows dam.
Alcoa agreed in 2012 to cap sediment in two sections of Badin Lake, which the dam impounds, where PCBs from its now-closed smelting works were found.