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Case: Lavaca Bay, TX

Site history: The Site located on the eastern shore of Lavaca Bay includes portions of an industrial facility owned and operated by Alcoa, Inc. (Alcoa) as well as a dredge spoil island and nearby areas of the bay. Past industrial activities at the facility resulted in the release of mercury and hydrocarbon compounds into the environment, including into the bay.

As of April 1988, after mercury levels were found to exceed levels considered safe for human consumption, a discrete portion of Lavaca Bay was closed to the taking of finfish and crabs. Supporting habitats in the bay were also adversely affected by the releases.

The Site was added to the National Priorities List (Superfund) for clean-up in 1994 and Alcoa subsequently carried out a comprehensive remedial investigation & feasibility study (RI/FS) for the Site in cooperation with state and federal response agencies. The closure area was modified in 2000 after early response actions reduced the area where fish harvested were likely to be unsafe. The final clean-up plan for the Site was approved in 2001.

Location: Point Comfort, Texas.


Case status: Restoration - Construction of all projects has been completed and performance monitoring is underway.

Overview: The Trustees, EPA, and Alcoa worked cooperatively and, in doing so, were able to substantially integrate natural resource damage assessment and restoration (NRDA) planning with the RI/FS process. Under this approach, the NRDA for the Site was carried out in parallel to and built on the planning and investigations undertaken as part of the RI/FS. This cooperative process was agreed to under a 1997 Memorandum of Agreement between Alcoa and the Trustees.

The NRDA addressed impacts to benthic resources, fish, birds and upland habitats from exposure to site contaminants and from response actions, as well as the recreational fishing losses caused by the fishing closure. The NRDA culminated in the release of two final damage assessment and restoration plans in 2001. Together, these plans identified the array of restoration actions that would be used to compensate for all resource losses attributable to site releases including losses due to remedial actions. Alcoa agreed to implement these restoration projects in a 2005 settlement of its natural resource damages liability for the Site.

The substantial integration of the NRDA and RI/FS processes led to thorough remedial investigations and ecological risk assessments and yielded the data and information needed to assess resource injuries and develop appropriate plans for restoration more quickly. The approach led to cost-effective solutions to the Site’s problems, avoided litigation, and resulted in more expeditious restoration of affected resources.

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