Fri June 3, 2011
Tonawanda Coke stirs new complaints
By Joyce Kryszak
Tonawanda, NY –
Residents near the Tonawanda Coke plant believe the coal processor is once again illegally spewing toxins into the air.
Pretty little houses dot the length of Kauffman Avenue in Tonawanda. There is a well-kept park and playground across the street. But, beyond that looms Tonawanda Coke. And resident Ann Sciandra said it is still casting long shadows.
"I lost my mom to cancer...sorry, seven years ago today, in fact," said Sciandra. "So, for him to think we're not watching, and looking and paying attention - we are. You can't let up on someone like J.D. Crane. You have to be a heavy hand all the time with him, otherwise, he's going to think, 'oh, I can get away with this now.'"
The plant, owned by Crane, was cited by regulators last year with more than 100 environmental violations, including dangerous benzene emissions, and the plant's manager faces federal criminal charges.
But Sciandra and her neighbors said at a press conference on Thursday that heavy, noxious odors and dark smoke are once again filling the air.
They said black soot also covers their cars and houses, keeping them virtual prisoners in their own homes.
She and other members of the Clean Air Coalition, the grassroots group that formed several years ago to push for environmental agency intervention, are demanding the DEC now take stronger action. Coalition Director Erin Heaney said the agency is their only hope.
"The DEC are the on-the-ground implementers. They are our last line of protection between the company that we know has a track record of being not only negligent but having criminal activity," said Heaney. "So, we're just calling on the DEC to remain vigilant, stay in there, and stay on top of this."
Heaney said there are reports of further equipment failures, leading to the release of raw emissions. The coalition sent the DEC a letter asking for more vigilant oversight of the plant.
Resident Joseph Waschensky walks in the neighborhood with his two-year old daughter Madison. He worries about her health - now and in the future.
"I know they've been doing some stuff to supposedly clean up the plant, but I don't think it's enough," said Waschensky.
Meanwhile, the criminal case is still pending. Attorneys for the plant's evironmental control manager is asking the case be dismissed. Requests from WBFO for comment from the plant's owner are repeatedly declined.