Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-NY, 28th District, wrote to the commissioner of New York's State Department of Environmental Conservation asking DEC to maintain a strong presence in Tonawanda as they monitor the air quality in the neighborhoods surrounding Tonawanda Coke.
Slaughter cited the positive effects that the monitoring has had on the local air quality, notably a drop in benzene levels by 86 percent, but cautioned against ending the monitoring prematurely.
"I recently became aware that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing the operation of the remaining two air monitors in the industrial area of Tonawanda as a result of budget constraints. I call on the NYS DEC to maintain the air monitoring operation in the Tonawanda industrial area as it is vitally important to the well being of the greater Tonawanda community and to the continued environmental progress of the region," Slaughter wrote. "The NYS DEC cannot claim victory yet. This operation must be maintained in order for the continued regulation of the major polluters."
"The residents of Tonawanda need an explicit commitment from Commissioner Martens to continuing the air monitoring in their community," said Erin Heaney, executive director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. "Air monitoring has been a critical tool in addressing the unacceptably high exposures of air pollution Western New Yorkers are exposed to on a daily basis. We are grateful for Congresswoman Slaughter's support for this vital community need."
A 2009 recent report found dangerous levels of benzene in the sky above Tonawanda. Benzene is a carcinogen. In March 2011, Slaughter applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for awarding a $10,000 grant to Clean Air Coalition of Western New York to address the risks from multiple sources of toxic pollution in their environment.
A month earlier, Slaughter submitted a statement to the Congressional Record making the case for the Clean Air Act citing the important work yet to come to improve air quality in Tonawanda and across the country. She said in part, "During my time serving the 28th District of New York, I have received multiple letters from the people of Tonawanda telling me about how their family and loved ones have developed cancer, asthma and other illnesses due to the extremely poor air quality in their community."
And in 2009, Slaughter wrote to then-DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis asking that the DEC develop a benzene reduction plan as soon as possible to significantly reduce benzene emissions from the Tonawanda Coke plant.
Tonawanda Coke is located across the East Niagara River from Ferry Village.