Is The Tonawanda Coke Plant Making People Sick?

July 15, 2010 Updated Jul 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

July 15, 2010 Updated Jul 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM EDT

TONAWANDA, NY ( WKBW ) Thursday evening was much like many others for a group of Tonawanda residents. They crowded into a room in the Sheridan Parkside Community Center, hoping to get answers on what is making people sick, and ultimately hold the guilty party responsible.

"Alot of our members are folks who are fighting back because they've been diagnosed with illnesses that have to do with environmental exposures. These are folks that have taken really good care of their bodies, eaten right, not smoked, and yet they're getting chronic diseases at young ages," said Erin Heaney, the Executive Director of Western New York Clean Air.

But it might not be so easy. Jim Bowers from the New York State Health Department has come up with a health study. It would take about two-years to complete. But, once the results come in they won't be able to tell what's causing residents to get sick they'll just reveal the rate and type of sickness in the area.

"You would say, oh man that's a great well done study. But it's not going to prove a link between cancer 'A' and exposure 'B'," said Jim Bowers.

"We know that health studies can't definitively prove anything, but we still want the health study to go forward because we think that it's a piece of the puzzle. It certainly is not going to be a silver bullet...there's no silver bullet. But we're confident that it will show something," said Heaney.

The community has 60 days to provide public comment on the design of the study and during that same time they'll decide whether they even want to go through with the study at all.