Taken from the June 21 Dispatch.
Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick has called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 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.
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 meeting.
"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 affect have 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 Hardwick.
At a recent Energy and Environment Committee meeting, Hardwick invited citizen activist Jackie James-Creedon, who is credited with bringing 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 back yards. 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.
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.