Tue September 20, 2011
WNY Coalition calls for public health response to industrial fires
By Joyce Kryszak
Buffalo, NY – On the day of yet another industrial fire, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York held a rally Tuesday in front of the Rath Building to protest the Erie County Health Department's lack of involvement following the Niagara Lubricants fire in July.
About 50 residents from the Chandler Street neighborhood gathered downtown, demanding a better response from the health department to industrial fires.
Tuesday morning there was another industrial blaze in the city. Erin Heaney with the Coalition said it is further evidence a local environmental response is needed.
"We woke again to the news there was another industrial fire," said Heaney. "And I think that just shows that this is a chronic problem for our city and our region. And if we are going to protect people we have to have a strong plan that includes residents and the public health department needs to be apart of that."
Within hours of the Niagara Lubricant fire in July the Coalition tested and found extremely high levels of toxins in the air. The New York State Department of Environmental Coalition came in more than a day later.
The county health department did not do testing or offer advisories. Anthony Billitier is the Erie County Health Commissioner. Billittier said that beyond warning people not to breathe smoke of any kind, he is not sure what more they could do.
"Now that's not to say we don't have a role to play in emergencies, it depends what the emergency is and everyone is different," said Billittier. "But, in general, for smoke exposure there is very little resources that the Erie County Health Department has to offer other than to link people to the appropriate resources."
And Billittier said that was done. None-the-less, Billittier said his department is willing to attend a meeting with residents and the Coalition - if one is held with the state department of health.