Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick has called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC) to conduct soil tests in areas near the Tonawanda Coke plant. Tonawanda Coke was recently found guilty of polluting the air and now focus has turned to what impact the facility’s operations has had on the soil.
Legislator Hardwick sponsored a resolution that requests the EPA and DEC fund a soil study to reveal the extent of the pollution caused by industrial facilities. The resolution was approved unanimously at the Legislature’s June 20, 2013 session and copies of the resolution will be forwarded to the DEC and EPA.
“We know that the air around Tonawanda Coke has dangerous levels of pollutants and we know that residents’ health has been adversely affected by the facility’s emissions. What we don’t currently know is what effect these pollutants had to the soil, what exactly is imbedded in the soil and how it is affecting residents who live there. A thorough study of the soil is necessary to not only obtain those answers but to implement a plan to remediate any affected areas,” said Legislator Hardwick.
At a recent Energy and Environment Committee meeting, Legislator Hardwick invited citizen activist Jackie James-Creedon, who is credited with bringing national attention to the matter, to speak to the Legislators about the importance of testing the soil.
“People in our Tonawanda community have complained for years about black particulate matter in our houses, on our boats and in our backyards. Tonawanda Coke was recently found guilty of violating the Clean Air Act including operating their plant without particulate control devices, called baffles, in place. We are calling on our government agencies, EPA and NYS DEC, to conduct a thorough soil investigation to determine the source, nature and extent of this potential public health threat,” James-Creedon said.
Presenting along with James-Creedon at the committee meeting was Andrew Baumgartner, a graduate of Kenmore East High School and current University at Buffalo student, who assisted James-Creedon and other community members with conducting their own soil sample study. The results from that limited study were concerning and identified pollutant levels similar to those found by the EPA during a test done in a Birmingham, Alabama neighborhood that was adjacent to a coke facility. The EPA funded the Birmingham study, as well as the cleanup effort.
“Thanks to Jackie James-Creedon’s work we know that Tonawanda and other nearby areas are facing the same issues identified near Birmingham. If a study was warranted there, it is certainly warranted here. We need to have a comprehensive test done to determine what is in the soil around Tonawanda Coke. My resolution also requests that DEC and EPA create the plan that would outline remedial actions to assist the residents going forward,” Legislator Hardwick added.
Because of the potential health risks involved, James-Creedon noted that Tonawanda and Grand Island have moved forward with additional testing for dangerous chemicals associated with particulate matter, focused on the most impacted neighborhoods. Legislator Hardwick personally funded the initial test, contributing $500 of his personal funds to help the effort. For more information about the soil testing project, please search, “Tonawanda Community Fund” on Facebook or call 716-873-6191.
For additional information or to speak with Legislator Hardwick about any county issue, please contact his Legislative Office at (716) 858-8672 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.