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On Earth Day 2021, AG James highlights environmental accomplishments in Western New York

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Fri, Apr 23rd 2021 01:20 pm

Continues to fight on behalf of New Yorkers & environment

To celebrate Earth Day 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday highlighted a number of local, statewide and federal public health and environmental protection efforts that her office has taken to protect communities in Western New York.

“Throughout my career, I have taken countless legal and legislative actions to protect the environment because, far too often, the negative impacts of an unhealthy planet are not shared equally,” James said. “We cannot talk about Earth Day and climate change without first talking about the disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable communities. That’s why it has been important for me to address critical issues for Western New York communities, such as lead poisoning in Buffalo homes and hazardous waste in Tonawanda. This Earth Day, I remain committed to supporting and protecting our communities through critical environmental actions, both in New York and across the nation.”

James has taken a number of actions in the Western New York region to address key climate, environmental, and public safety concerns. For example:

She reached a $4 million agreement this week that resolves years of hazardous waste disposal and oil spill contamination at the former Tonawanda Forge site in Tonawanda, New York. Her office stated, “Over the years, a number of soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water sampling investigations of the Tonawanda Forge site have found the presence of asbestos, petroleum and other hazardous substances – including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, heavy metals (such as lead and arsenic), volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds. Some of this contamination was found at levels exceeding state cleanup standards designed to protect public health and the environment.”

The agreement stipulates American Axle & Manufacturing will compensate the state of New York for costs associated with the state’s cleanup of contamination at the site.

•In September 2020, James, with the City of Buffalo and Erie County as co-plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against a group of individuals and companies in the Buffalo region for “repeatedly and persistently violating county, city, state, and federal laws by illegally allowing lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in their rental properties.” Her office stated, “The violations by the group, which has owned and managed more than 150 single- and two-family homes in predominantly low-income communities, has led to dozens of reported instances of childhood lead poisoning.

“The poisoning of children from lead paint in aging rental housing is of particular concern within the Buffalo region. Tens of thousands of rental properties in Buffalo that were constructed before 1978 contain lead paint, which, if not properly maintained and managed, can cause lead poisoning. If such properties are properly maintained, however, lead poisoning can be prevented. The health impacts of lead paint in rental housing are particularly acute in the Buffalo region, where elevated blood lead levels are more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods than high-income neighborhoods.”

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