State revoking permits at Tonawanda Coke

Jul 20, 2018

Credit WBFO News file photo

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says it is revoking permits from Tonawanda Coke because the company has repeatedly violated air pollution regulations.

The state sent the company a cease and desist letter Friday telling it to stop any operations that release materials into the air, and ordering that permits to do so be revoked next month.

The cease and desist order said the company had shown "a blatant disregard for the environment for the environment and the health and welfare of the surrounding community."

In a prepared statement, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the order is designed "to prevent potential harm to its workers, [the] surrounding community and the environment."

The state is revoking their permits after six violations in the past two months -- and an especially viral picture or two of black smoke pouring out of the faciltiy's smokestack earlier this week. The revocation will take effect Aug. 4, unless the company challenges it. A representative from Tonawanda Coke was not immediately available for comment. The cease and desist order follows years of complaints from neighbors. In 2014, the company was assesed a $12.5 million fine for illegally releasing the carcinogen benzene into the air and improperly handling hazardous sludge. A federal judge also ordered Tonawanda Coke to spend up to $12.2 million on health and environment studies in the community, and sentenced the plant’s environmental manager to a year in jail. Enforcement actions were triggered after area residents smelled something odd in the air. They worried that it might be harmful, but they didn't know where it was coming from. "We would literally go out at night and hunt for the smell," Jackie James-Creedon told WBFO earlier this year. "In Agust of 2004, there was a bad smell and we took an air sample and that's what started the whole Tonawanda Coke campaign."