Schumer weighs in on Tonawanda Coke shutdown

Short-term outlook for River Road plant after shutdown

Mike Baggerman
October 15, 2018 - 11:00 pm

Tonawanda Coke. October 15, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Tonawanda Coke's shutdown process began on Sunday and is expected to continue this week. 

"Tonawanda Coke employed 100 people," Senator Chuck Schumer said about the plant in a visit to Buffalo. "We always care about jobs in Western New York, but they also sent all kinds of horrible stuff into the neighborhood." 

Schumer said he was first approached by residents about the Tonawanda Coke controversy about five years ago but said the company was "back doing bad things".

The 100 workers will reportedly get aid in finding new job placement courtesy of the Buffalo Career Center. Schumer said he'll do everything he can at the federal level to help those individuals without work.

Tonawanda Coke released a statement on Monday saying that they cannot continue operations due to the financial obligations of its criminal sentence, significant and unanticipated expenses, the loss of a funding source, and the multiple and coordinated enforcement actions by several government agencies. The company was unable to make its recent $2 million payment. 

"I will do everything I can to make sure that someone doesn't walk away with a lot of money before the people - the victims - are paid."

Tonawanda Coke called the information about the closure leaking out to the press "truly unfortunate" and said the confidentiality was necessary to ensure the safety of the plant's workers and the community.

The plant is expected to finish its shutdown by Tuesday. After that, the DEC and other agencies will stabilize the plant and ensure the proper closure of tanks and dispose of any hazardous materials. An investigation will identify contamination at the site and develop a cleanup plan. DEC officials do not know how much the cleanup costs will be but they said they will know after their investigation. 

The DEC also noted that they are not aware of any imminent threats to off-site areas, such as possible oil runoff into the Niagara River. 

After the plant finishes its operations, it will fully secure the site and prevent any access once it shuts its doors. 

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