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Concerns over direction of Tonawanda Coke clean-up

Concerns over direction of Tonawanda Coke clean-up
Posted at 11:51 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 23:51:35-05

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Tonawanda Coke plant closed nearly a year and a half ago. The next step is clean up.

The Clean Air Coalition and Tonawanda residents gathered Wednesday evening to submit comments to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on the clean up plan they want to see. Many want to see the Superfund program put in place, but the plant's new owner applied for the other option, which is the Brownfield program. Neighbors feel that's unfair because that would make the new owner eligible for tax cuts.

"We believe that polluters should pay for their mess, the Superfund program makes them," said Rebecca Newberry, the Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition.

The DEC said the two plans fall under the same regulations, have the same clean up standards, and both ask for public input. The Brownfield program tends to be a quicker process which left some residents concerned.

The DEC said one difference, is the Superfund program is an enforcement program, while Brownfield puts the onus on the developer.

"Brownfield is a developer oriented program, so it's designed to encourage developers to come forward on a voluntary basis, not an enforcement basis, and undertake the cleanup," said Mike Ryan, the Director of Environmental Remediation at the DEC.

Jon Williams, the site's new owner, said economic development and environmental remediation are not mutually exclusive. He wants the site to be cleaned up according to strict environmental standards through the Brownfield program.

"We share the same goal as everyone for the former Tonawanda Coke property, which is to see the site cleaned up to the stringent environmental standards of New York State," said Williams.

Both Superfund and Brownfield are state level programs (there is a federal version of Superfund as well).

One of the main reasons for the meeting was because the DEC denied requests for a public hearing. It said public comment periods are protocol. The public comment period ends January 18th. Applications can be submitted here.

All comments must reference:

  • SITE ID # C915353
  • SITE NAME: Riverview Innovation and Technology Campus

And can be submitted via phone and email:

  • Phone- Benjamin McPherson 716-851-7220
  • Email- benjamin.mcpherson@dec.ny.gov with a carbon copy to derweb@dec.ny.gov

Subject line- Public comment on Riverview Innovation and Technology Campus, Site ID # C195353