New Account of Explosion at Tonawanda Coke

February 6, 2014 Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 12:28 AM EDT

By Kendra Eaglin

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February 6, 2014 Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 12:28 AM EDT

(WKBW)
Buffalo, NY

Just what Congressman Brian Higgins and environmental watch dogs guessed, Friday's incident at the Tonawanda Coke plant was much more than a safety valve activating, it was an explosion.

But how did it happen?

In a statement released Wednesday the company says the extremely cold temperatures caused an air-line to freeze which caused a blockage in a gas line.

That blockage of coke-oven gas erupted just before noon Friday setting off a fire in the plant. No one was hurt but the explosion leaves many worried about their health and safety. Coke oven gas is comprised of a dangerous cocktail of chemicals including the cancer causing chemical Benzene.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation went into the facility and characterized the situation as a significant event, contrary to what the factory initially told the public.

"I think any response coming from Tonawanda Coke whether it was the day of the explosion or six days later is suspect," said Congressman Brian Higgins.

Higgins expects Tonawanda Coke to face fines and or sanctions within the next couple of days. Meanwhile the company is still operating.

Last year the company was only the second in U.S. history to be found guilty of violating the Clean Air Act and is facing millions in fines.

Tonawanda Coke says it submitted a detailed follow up report several agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

It says it will continue to cooperate with officials throughout this investigation.