Tonawanda Coke Raided

18 Dec

Ever inhale air on the Tonawanda side of the Grand Island Bridge?

The Clean Air Coalition has been targeting the likely culprit, Tonawanda Coke, which was found in October to be emitting 75 times the normal volume of benzene from its River Road facility.

Benzene causes cancer. People living downwind from Tonawanda Coke are getting cancers at abnormally high levels. The owner of Tonawanda Coke rejects the notion that his plant is the major source of benzene in the air in Tonawanda and Grand Island, and claims that other plants together with Thruway emissions are causing the problems.

But that didn’t wash.

Ryan is convinced the heaviest and dirtiest emissions occur after dark to hide what the plant is doing.

“Some nights it gets so bad,” he said.

hemist Joseph Gardella Jr. supports Ryan’s theory, based on analysis of data from a five- day study conducted by the EPA in April, which the agency has yet to analyze.

“The EPA sampled in the middle of the night when the Thruway traffic wasn’t an issue,” said Gardella, a University at Buffalo chemistry professor. “They’d get these spikes of huge amounts of benzene being emitted in a short time period.”

Plus, Tonawanda Coke’s owner has a track record of past violations at a coke plant in Erie, PA where that company got hit with a $6.1 million for air quality illegalities, and a lack of cooperation.

Well, the Feds finally raided Tonawanda Coke on Thursday, taking records and samples. You see, the Clean Air Coalition complained to Schumer and Gillibrand, who in turn urged Tonawanda Coke’s owner to meet with them. He refused. Gillibrand got the EPA involved.

It’s time for polluters to be held accountable for their illegalities and for poisoning the community. It’s cool to make a buck and employ people, but if you can’t be bothered to follow the law then the law needs to get involved. I have no doubt that Tonawanda Coke has the capability to take measured to come into compliance with air quality requirements. But it probably costs a few bucks to do that, and they’ve evidently weighed the choices and determined that any consequence from poisoning the surrounding neighborhoods is just a cost of doing business.

The day is coming soon when the exact environmental and genetic triggers of cancer can be pinpointed in each individual case. When that day comes, companies like Tonawanda Coke are going to be in big trouble indeed.

8 Responses to “Tonawanda Coke Raided”

  1. Ward December 18, 2009 at 11:24 pm #

    You know, I confess my car has been emitting way too much benzine these days. I’m gonna have to get that looked at before I head to the Falls next time. Thanks for the heads-up, boys.

  2. Dave December 19, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    ‘The cost of doing business’ is too low. If the feds can seize the personal property of drug dealers, it would only make sense that they be able to seize the assets of irresponsible and deadly pollutors…

  3. Jon Splett December 19, 2009 at 3:21 am #

    But regulations are bad!

    The free market will protect us from cancer!

    • Jonathan Wellinton-Fidrych III December 19, 2009 at 11:45 am #

      That’s the spirit, old chap! We need more young men like you. Do you play polo?

  4. mike December 19, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    All this and reduced taxes too!! Thank you IDA !

  5. Peter A Reese December 19, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    @Ward: You raise a good point. I have noticed that my Vibe has been spewing all sorts of deadly carcinogens for months now. I guess we all need to pull together to solve this problem and not place all the blame on poor Tonawanda Coke owner, J.D. Crane.
    I wonder if we are suffering residual damage from the Bush administration’s complete dismantling of the federal regulatory system?

  6. Brian Castner December 19, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    @ Alan – You are spot on to the last paragraph. Unfortunately, cancer is such a non-specific disease, that we are a long way in telling why people get what they do. Environmental factors are part of it. Genetics are part of it. Lifestyle is part of it. One reason the Clean Air Coalition has had to work hard to make their case is that common sense says these clusters of cancer have to do with the plant, but if someone downwind of the plant has lung cancer but also smokes, what was the cause? Its an impossible case to build. Which is why benzene should just be regulated, like other carcinogens. Heard a story on NPR that OSHA regulates 500 chemicals emitted at the workplace, and the EU regulates 5000. That’s how far behind we are.

  7. AnswerLady December 19, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    “t’s cool to make a buck and employ people, but if you can’t be bothered to follow the law then the law needs to get involved. ”

    We need to close the door that allows these companies to shutdown and move the jobs to some place more pollution friendly. Rep Slaughter is starting to right the wrongs done by NAFTA and the WTO.

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