DEC Says No Long Term Effects on Health After Tonawanda Coke Shutdown

Tonawanda Coke plant shut down in October

Tom Puckett
December 17, 2018 - 12:45 pm

Mike Baggerman

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Tonawanda, NY (WBEN) The DEC says a significant drop in benzene in the air is directly linked to the shutdown of the Tonawanda Coke plant in October.

A report released Monday says monitoring data show an immediate drop in benzene following the shutdown. The DEC adds the data found no chemical concentrations that would be of concern for short- and long-term exposures and no public health concern for either short- or long-term exposure.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "For too long, Tonawanda Coke has been a blight on this community, and its owners will be held accountable for any damage to this community and the environment. In response to concerns raised by local residents, DEC assessed neighborhood air quality by analyzing monitoring data and samples. We found that air quality distinctly improved after the shutdown of Tonawanda Coke and that benzene, a toxic air pollutant, dropped precipitously. DEC and our partners at U.S. EPA are a constant, on-site presence at this site to ensure public safety and a comprehensive investigation of the site is being launched to identify any contamination at the site, and develop a cleanup plan through a transparent, public process that ensures community input at every step."

DEC has operated two monitors in the neighborhood since 2007. One monitor, located on Grand Island Boulevard, is 1,500 feet northeast of the facility and near interstates 190 and 290 and other industrial facilities. The second monitor is located in a residential neighborhood on Brookside Terrace West, 8,000 feet northeast of the facility. Earlier this year, in response to concerns about operations at Tonawanda Coke, DEC supplemented the Grand Island Boulevard toxics monitor with real-time benzene monitoring. Although benzene levels at Grand Island Boulevard were higher than recent years for much of 2018, the shutdown of Tonawanda Coke in October corresponded with an immediate drop in benzene at that location. In addition, samples taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the period leading up to the plant closure did not detect levels of significance.

DEC and EPA are currently on-site to stabilize and comprehensively assess environmental conditions and investigate any contamination at the site. DEC will continue to provide information and regular updates to the public on the progress of the cleanup.

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