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The Mohawk community has always sustained themselves through farming and fishing. With the threat of fluoride contamination, that is not a choice for our members any longer. Over the past 7-8 years, the SRMT Environment Office and NYS DEC have collected vegetation samples throughout the surrounding area of the three industrial plants and several places on the Reservation.
Fluoride vegetation levels are regulated by NYS Air Resources, Ambient Air Quality standards, part 257.8 and by the newly promulgated Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards for Primary Aluminum Smelters.
Vegetation showing the following levels are in exceedance:
|•||80 ppm = 30 day violation|
|•||60 ppm = 60 day violation|
|•||40 ppm = growing season violation|
Samples are made up of any type of vegetation that a grazing animal would eat. Samples are collected into plastic bags and delivered to the Department of Health lab in Albany, NY. The samples are dried, ground up and sieved through a 1.0 mm mesh screen. It is then combusted in an oxygen bomb and analyzed using a specific ion electrode.
Every season there have been exceedances of the standards. Four sites are the primary trouble spots, Sites 2 and 16, northeast of Alcoa and Sites 25 and 26, north of Reynolds. Alcoa has recently installed a new fume system, yet this past year was the worse year Alcoa has seen for fluoride levels. Installation of a new fume system at Reynolds in the year 2000 will hopefully show a dramatic decrease in fluoride deposition.
Areas of Concern
With very little notice to the Tribe, NYS DEC decided to halt all fluoride sampling effective January 1998. This concerned the Tribe, since Reynolds will be restarting their third potline which is comprised mostly of unmodernized pots. Emissions from this line will increase the amount of fluoride deposition and violations from Reynolds. After protest from the Tribe, NYS DEC reinstated the sampling program with personnel help from the Tribe.
This winter, the Tribe, NYS DEC and the industries will work together to write a consistent standard operating procedure (SOP) for sampling and analyzing for vegetative fluoride. Hopefully, the SOP will be finished by the new growing season.