Stringent site cleanups to begin with Riverview’s acceptance into state’s brownfield cleanup program & new consent order with Honeywell International under state superfund program
New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the acceptance of a section of the former Tonawanda Coke Corporation property into the state’s brownfield cleanup program, and the execution of a new consent order with Honeywell International to hold the company responsible for the cleanup of other sections of the former plant site under the state’s superfund program. Together, the agreements with Riverview Innovation & Technology Campus Inc. (Riverview) and Honeywell provide a successful path forward in the comprehensive removal of contamination at the site and will facilitate the area’s redevelopment to benefit the community.
“I am proud of the lead role DEC took in permanently shuttering Tonawanda Coke to protect the environment and public health of Western New York communities,” Seggos said. “Now, with the agreements announced today, DEC will ensure the former plant site will be responsibly and aggressively cleaned up under the state’s strict standards so that it can be redeveloped and help contribute to the region’s economy.”
As a result of DEC’s pollution control efforts, the Tonawanda Coke plant in Western New York shut down its operations in October 2018. DEC had taken legal action to revoke the company’s air permits due to continuing violations that jeopardized the environment and public health of the surrounding community.
The agreement announced today formally accepts Riverview’s application into the state’s brownfield cleanup program (BCP) following a thorough review of application materials by DEC and an extended opportunity for public comment. A press release explained the BCP has a proven track record of success in Western New York, and statewide ensuring sites are cleaned up expeditiously and comprehensively, returning them to productive use – and back on tax rolls to help strengthen local economies.
Riverview’s next steps include the submission of a remedial investigation work plan to DEC, which will be made available for public review and comment prior to being finalized. Riverview must also develop a citizen participation plan that enables the public to participate more fully in decisions that affect their health as the cleanup progresses. Following DEC’s approval of the work plan, Riverview will begin immediately investigating the Tonawanda Coke site for contaminants that will require cleanup. Riverview will then embark on an aggressive schedule to clean up the site under DEC’s stringent monitoring and oversight. Once the cleanup is completed, estimated by 2024, Riverview plans to redevelop the property as a data center campus on the footprint of the former Tonawanda Coke facility.
DEC today also announced the execution of a consent order under the state superfund program with Honeywell International, which accepted responsibility for the cleanup of three separate sections – called operable units – on the Tonawanda Coke property that are outside of the BCP boundary. DEC will ensure Honeywell fully investigates and remediates those portions of the property that constitute the superfund sites.
The press release said, “The state’s superfund and brownfield cleanup programs offer strong legal enforcement tools to ensure the polluters pay and sites get cleaned up and reused in a timely manner. These cleanups will be strategically designed to safeguard the Town of Tonawanda and the nearby Niagara River from environmental harm and will provide flexibility for future redevelopment and help meet the needs of local planning and development agencies.
“As always, public involvement will be a critical part of the development and implementation of the former Tonawanda Coke’s site cleanup. DEC will continue to work closely and transparently with the Tonawanda community throughout the cleanup process. There will be multiple opportunities for public input to ensure the community has a voice in the implementation of both the superfund and BCP cleanups. For instance, the community will have an opportunity to review and comment on the remedial investigation work plan and, upon implementation of the approved plan, DEC will host an availability session to discuss the remedial investigation findings and next steps.
“DEC would like to acknowledge the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s emergency response team, and the on-scene coordinators in particular, who assisted DEC in securing the Tonawanda Coke site in October 2018. Since that time, the emergency response team has been a constant presence alongside DEC, helping ensure the safe transition of the former plant into a comprehensive cleanup program.”
New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs said, “I am extremely pleased by today’s announcement that the former Tonawanda Coke site has been accepted into the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s brownfield cleanup program. The BCP will enable the effective environmental cleanup that residents have long fought for, and do so in the most expeditious time frame to create private-sector redevelopment in an industrial corridor critical to the success of our regional economy.”
New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, 141st District, said, “Mr. Williams’ companies are experienced and aptly suited to partner with Honeywell to address the onsite contamination and future redevelopment efforts of the Tonawanda Coke facility.”
Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, said, “The brownfield cleanup program has a long and proven record of successfully remediating environmentally contaminated properties in Western New York and throughout our state and, therefore, would be the ideal vehicle for cleaning up the Tonawanda Coke site. This 160-acre property is situated within close proximity of the Niagara River and, once remediated, would be a prime spot for private sector redevelopment and the economic revitalization of the area.”
Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger said, "The former Tonawanda Coke site has been a huge environmental concern and hazard in our community for decades. Our goal, from the very beginning, was to ensure the site is remediated in a way that best suits our desire to protect the public from any future environmental issues. We believe that the decision today by the NYSDEC by placing the site in the brownfield cleanup program will be doing just that. The brownfield cleanup program has a proven track record of remediating environmentally contaminated properties in our state in a cost-effective – and more importantly – environmentally safe manner. With this determination today, the new owner can now move forward with the cleanup and we are one-day closer to completing that task."
Jackie James Creedon, founder, Citizen Science Community Resources Inc., said, “We are pleased with the NYS DEC announcement today. Our communities need to move forward and heal, and this decision will allow us to do that. We also intend to be actively engaged in the process going forward to make sure we get a safe and thorough clean up.”