Groups Intervene in State Action to Stop Aluminum Smelting Plant’s Illegal Dumping of Heavy Metals in Ohio River

Environmental Advocates Want Plant to Stay Open and Transition to Clean Aluminum

Evansville, IN — The Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) filed a motion today to intervene in the State’s lawsuit against the Alcoa Warrick aluminum smelting plant in Indiana for repeated violations of Indiana and federal clean water laws.

The groups are taking this action to finally end Alcoa’s pollution of the Ohio River with toxics like mercury and to ensure that the company will be held accountable for its 100+ permit violations over the last two years.

Last November, the groups sent Alcoa Warrick a notice of intent to sue in federal court. The notice listed more than one hundred permit violations from the Warrick smelter in 2022 and 2023, including releasing illegal amounts of mercury, aluminum, chlorine, copper, fluoride, nickel, and zinc into the Ohio River.

At one Warrick plant outfall monitored on June 30, 2023, the amounts of mercury and zinc discharged from the plant were about 20 times the legal limit, and the amount of copper were more than triple the permitted levels. On May 31, 2023, effluent from the plant had more than 13 times the legal limit for aluminum discharges.

Alcoa has continued to pollute the Ohio River and violate its permit since EIP and Sierra Club filed their notice in November – Alcoa exceeded its permit limits for mercury again in December.

“Alcoa’s permit violations make pollution on the already-polluted Ohio River worse. For instance, there is already too much mercury in the Ohio to be safe for birds and fish. When Alcoa blows its mercury limits month after month, it’s adding to the problem,”said Meg Parish, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “We’re intervening in the state’s enforcement case against Alcoa to ensure the smelter will finally comply with its pollution limits and pay penalties for its two years of almost constant violations.”

Following EIP and Sierra Club’s notice of intent to sue Alcoa and two days before the groups were authorized to file their own complaint, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) filed a lawsuit against Warrick Newco, an Alcoa subsidiary, in Warrick County Court, for water pollution violations. IDEM has asked the Court to order Alcoa to comply with its permit, but has not included deadlines for compliance or specifically asked for penalties.

Advocates are also calling on the plant to transition to powering its operations with renewable energy. Most of the electricity at Alcoa’s smelters worldwide comes from renewable sources, but the company continues to run Warrick on a highly polluting coal-burning power plant. This needs to change for the company to advance its stated goal of producing aluminum with a low climate and pollution impact.

“We look forward to ending Alcoa’s egregious water violations, saving good union jobs and transitioning the facility to clean aluminum production,” said Joab Schultheis, Energy Committee Chair, Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club. “Aluminum is a key material for clean energy products like solar panels and electric vehicles and it can be made right here in Indiana.”

For a copy of the motion to intervene, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit organization, based in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.

Media Contacts:
Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, (443) 510-2574 or
Lee Ziesche, Sierra Club,