Opponents of Tonawanda Coke say they're back where they were four years ago in the fight to close the facility, but are making plans for more action.
The company is still in business after visiting Federal court Sept. 21 to answer charges of violation of its probation.
Town of Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray said, "On Sept. 21, 2018, U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny ruled that Tonawanda Coke Corporation can continue to operate. The government was not able to prove that the emissions are dangerous to public health because Tonawanda Coke does not have monitors installed inside the stacks. Judge Skretny ordered tests, monitor installation, and other repairs to the facilities."
Tonawanda Coke will report back to the Skretny on all improvements, McMurray said.
"The thick black smoke coming out of the stacks in recent weeks did violate opacity regulations, so Tonawanda Coke will have to pay fines, but nothing near the $25 million they paid in 2013 for violating the Clean Air Act," McMurray said.
Meanwhile, Citizen Science Community Resources has announced meetings, one on Grand Island, to mobilize its forces, saying, "Residents of Tonawanda and Grand Island will meet to mobilize efforts surrounding the latest issues at Tonawanda Coke Corp. The company faces the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation in state court on Oct. 10. These meetings will help answer questions and develop a plan on how our communities will move forward."
A meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the community room in Burger King, 1700 Grand Island Blvd.
According to Citizen Science, the forum will include a "guest speaker presenting a short overview and answering your questions pertaining to the chemicals that are coming off of the plant and how they may impact our health."
Citizen Science Community Resources director, Jackie James Creedon, said, "We continue to see the stacks at Tonawanda Coke spewing out black sooty smoke every single day and wonder if our health is being compromised. We are meeting to determine what we can do using citizen science and as a united front to help put an end to this company's pollution once and for all."
"I am disappointed in Judge Skretny's ruling and I now call on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to do that which the federal court would not, namely protect the health and welfare of our citizens," said Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, who represents Grand Island in the legislature.
McMurray said he was "saddened by this decision. We are back where we were four years ago. I understand the difficulty of Judge Skretny's position, and it was clear he is troubled by Tonawanda Coke. We live in a world, however, where most of us get fired for being late to work. It is concerning that Tonawanda Coke was given yet another chance to take advantage of its employees, put the community at risk, and exploit the region for profit.
"I want to thank the residents who wrote letters to Judge Skretny asking that Tonawanda Coke be shut down. Several of these letters were cited in court today; community involvement matters.
"In mid-October the EPA and DEC will return to Federal Court to reassess the impact of Tonawanda Coke on our community. We must continue fighting. Tonawanda Coke has proven that they cannot be trusted. Visit https://csresources.org/
to get involved. We cannot give up."
Who: Citizen Science Community Resources
What: Mobilization meetings
- When: 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 29
- Where: River Road Fire Hall, 39 River Road, Tonawanda
On Grand Island
- When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8
- Where: Community Room at Burger King, 1700 Grand Island Blvd