LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – An aluminum plant near the Ohio River in Hancock County, Ky., would be taken off a national list of contaminated properties under a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA plans to remove the former National Southwire Aluminum facility in Hawesville, about a 1 1/2 hour drive southwest of Louisville, from its “national priorities list” in October after the agency and Kentucky officials determined the site met its cleanup goals.

The facility is one of 14 in Kentucky on the list, which is part of the “Superfund” program that provides federal funds to deal with hazardous waste. It would be the first such site in the state to be delisted since the Red Penn Sanitation Co. landfill in Oldham County was taken off in 2001, according to EPA records.

“It doesn’t happen all the time, so it is a significant milestone,” said Tim Hubbard, an environmental scientist and consultant with the Kentucky Division of Waste Management.

The EPA’s list includes places that “appear to present a significant risk to public health, welfare or the environment.” Investigations in the 1970s and 1980s found cyanide in a well that provided drinking water to more than 1,000 workers at the Hawesville plant, along with chemicals flowing into the Ohio River, according to the EPA.

The Southwire Co. of Carrollton, Ga., operated the plant from 1969 to 2001, when Century Aluminum of Kentucky bought a majority interest in the facility, according to information from the EPA and Century Aluminum. While Century still runs an aluminum plant at the site, Southwire has been responsible for the environmental cleanup.

Among other steps, that work included treating groundwater tainted with cyanide, then discharging it into the river under a state permit, and removing soil contaminated with PCBs, which have been linked to cancer and other ailments.

“We are excited to see years of hard work result in the Hawesville site being removed from the national priorities list," Southwire spokesman Gary Leftwich said in a statement. "We are appreciative of the EPA, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management and others for their cooperation as we worked toward our cleanup goals. We will continue with our commitment to monitor groundwater to ensure it meets all applicable guidelines.”

The EPA will remove the Hawesville site from the national list on October 5 unless it receives “adverse comments” before September 21, according to a notice published last Friday in the Federal Register.

The delisting won’t affect monitoring already occurring, such as inspecting a cap system placed on a slurry pond.

“There will still be continued work done out there,” Hubbard said. “There will still be inspections made by the company, the operation and maintenance, groundwater monitoring will continue for the next 30 years.”

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