Officials say industrial water issue threatens jobs in Tonawanda

Apr 4, 2018

Sen. Charles Schumer says thousands of local jobs are at risk unless the owner of the Huntley Power Station allows nearby industry to keep pumping water from its property along the Niagara River.

NRG "retired" its Huntley Power Station on River Rd., Tonawanda, in 2016.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

The issue is serious enough that the Senate Minority Leader traveled to the Town of Tonawanda on Tuesday to call on NRG Energy to keep the water flowing.

"Any gap in water service will do serious and irreversible damage to our regional economy."

Sen. Schumer blasted NRG surrounded by workers at Peroxychem on Sawyer Ave.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

Even though NRG shut down the Huntley coal fired power plant in 2016, for the past hundred years or so, Town Supervisor Joe Emminger says the facility provided access to river water used by industry including Peroxychem, the Dunlop Sumitomo tire plant, Dupont, and the 3M sponge plant.

"We're not talking about a little bit of water here. We're talking about tens of millions of gallons a day," Emminger said.

But their contracts run out in 2019 and Emminger says the company has been quiet about its plans.
    
"They did the list the property for sale a couple of weeks ago and they're saying the contracts from those will go into play," he said.

Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger says the issue is causing a lot of anxiety for several entities.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

But the uncertainty, he says, is causing a lot of angst and anxiety amongst the businesses, the Town, and Ken-Ton School District. Schumer says about 4,000 jobs are risk.  
    
"That's why we've got to get NRG to do it. They're flush with money. They got a huge tax break and they're using a billion of it to buy back their stock. So, in comparison to the billions of dollars NRG is willing to spend on enriching their corporate CEOs and their shareholders, extending this agreement would be inexpensive and away to demonstrate their commitment to jobs and the economy," Schumer said.  

In a written statement, an NRG spokesman said the company is aware of the importance of the water issue and contracts may be extended by mutual agreement. The spokesman says NRG has worked in good faith with the plants for almost three years to accommodate their needs and allow them time to plan for the future.

"Regarding the closed Huntley plant, the current contracts for water intake services are still in effect and may be extended by mutual agreement.  NRG is aware of the importance of the industrial plants’ access to water and we continue to work with them, and with the Town of Tonawanda, while balancing the needs and future opportunities for the site which is a key priority for the community and NRG as well," said spokesman David Gaier, in a statement.

"To be clear, NRG does not provide water to these industrial customers.  They operate their own pumping equipment on the site to take water from the Niagara River.  We have confidential commercial contracts in place to permit their ongoing use. It’s important to note that Huntley station has been retired for two years, and we’ve worked in good faith with those industrial companies for almost three years—since before the station closed—to accommodate their needs and allow time to plan for the future."