UB to unveil results of Tonawanda Coke soil study

Activist group still concerned about credibility of study

Mike Baggerman
November 21, 2019 - 3:00 am

Mike Baggerman

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - The University at Buffalo will unveil its findings in their study of the soil that was impacted by Tonawanda Coke on Thursday night.

Tonawanda Coke closed its doors last October 23 after violating its probation regarding opacity standards. The company was ordered by a federal judge to commission a study and involve the community in that study. With that order, researchers at the University at Buffalo were given more than $12 million to study the site's soil and impact to the nearby community.

$10 million of the $12 million that Tonawanda Coke was paid. The company's bankruptcy did not allow UB to receive the final $2 million through SUNY RF.

The study itself, which cost $711,000 will feature discussions about the chemicals are in the soil of the surrounding communities and whether or not those pollutants originated from the controversial coke plant.

The advocates who pushed for the plant's closure continue their skepticism over the study. Jackie James, the founder of Citizens Science Community Resouces, previously told WBEN and the Erie County Legislature that UB is benefiting the college and not the people affected by the emissions that came from Tonawanda Coke. 

"With this study we had concerns about how they were taking six-inch samples," James said. "We wanted two-inch samples because that's where people are really going to be exposed - In their gardens or play areas."

She said the study is a disappointment due to the lack of cooperation with the community. James said they are ready to move forward with the process and actually began their own testing of the gardens and play areas in communities around Tonawanda Coke.

She lacks confidence in the study and said that outside experts that have raised serious questions.

"They really didn't find too much of anything," she said of the UB study results.

"We're ready to move on," she added. "We've got a small grant from Erie County and have a few samples from over the summer. We're going to move forward and we know not to give up on certain things. This is just another case where we'll have to get back after it and get more funding to provide the community with what we wanted."

Representatives from the University at Buffalo were not available for comment when reached on Wednesday.

Thursday's meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Riverview Elementary School.

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