Local Lawmaker Pushes for Fines Paid By Tonawanda Coke to Stay in Western New York

March 31, 2013 Updated Mar 31, 2013 at 12:24 AM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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March 31, 2013 Updated Mar 31, 2013 at 12:24 AM EDT

Congressman Brian Higgins is calling for action to ensure fines paid by Tonawanda Coke Corporation are kept in a superfund for locals most impacted, instead of in a general fund in Washington D.C.

"I think that should be established by the Department of Justice, " said Higgins. "They have an Environmental Justice Division. That should be decided later on. I just want to make sure that the money is accessible to those who real damage has been done to."

People like Donna Hennessy who has been living near the plant for the past 32 years and says she has has developed myelofibrosis because of the carcinogens from the plant.

"The first thing I did when I was diagnosed was I went on the internet and it said myleofibrosis is caused from a high quantity of benzine and I knew right away it was from this joint," said Hennessy.

Congressman Higgins says he will continue to fight for residents like Hennessy and while he can't reverse the damage that's been done, he says the funds could make their lives a little easier down the road.

Eyewitness News also spoke with U.S. attorney William Hochul who says he is currently working with his legal team to see if the creation of a local fund is possible.

If it is, residents will be asked to come forward and report their health issues.