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GI among municipalities questioning Tonawanda Coke collaboration

Sat, Mar 9th 2019 07:00 am

The towns of Grand Island and Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda along with Citizen Science are pursuing action regarding Tonawanda Coke community projects.

Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger, City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis along with Phil Haberstro and other members from Citizen Science Community Resources are raising public awareness regarding the management of the Tonawanda Coke community service projects and monies.

Sixteen years ago, several citizens now calling themselves Citizen Science Community Resources with the support of a grassroots effort, started a movement that led to criminal actions and community service projects totaling $12.2 million against Tonawanda Coke. The leaders say the projects have not gone back to Citizen Science Community Resources or directly to the community. “To this point, nearly all of the funds have been used for University at Buffalo led studies, leaving out all other stakeholders,” they said in a press release.

McMurray said, “We can’t leave out the folks that started this. When no one else was paying attention, Citizens Science Community Resources was out there with buckets measuring air quality. They were first line of defense. We can’t leave them out. This is important. Last year Erie County ranked near the bottom among all counties according to the Robert Woods Johnson study on health. We need more.”

Davis said, “For years, before sentencing, this was a community collaboration. Since the judge has ruled, we seem to have lost the community collaboration with this project. That needs to change ASAP.”

The University at Buffalo issued a statement regarding court-ordered studies related to the former Tonawanda Coke plant.

“Community members have played a major role in both the Tonawanda Coke Soil Study and the Environmental Health Study for Western New York since these two separate court-ordered studies began. Both studies are being carried out according to plans approved by the court, with the goal of providing people who live and work nearby with high-quality, research-based information on the impact of pollution on their neighborhoods.

“Hundreds of local residents, as well as local school districts, have participated in the Tonawanda Coke Soil Study by having soil sampled from their properties. More than 12,000 area residents have enrolled in the Environmental Health Study for Western New York to date. Each study has established a community advisory committee to help guide decision-making. In addition, team members from each study have met with community members and leaders on multiple occasions to discuss and solicit feedback about the studies.

“CSCR has received more than $100,000 for its work on the soil study. The Research Foundation has reviewed the most recent invoices submitted by CSCR containing non-project expenses, and it has notified CSCR that these expenses cannot be paid as they are outside of the terms of the contract.”

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