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Scientists share recent findings from Tonawanda Coke soil study

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Posted at 9:37 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 21:37:24-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Scientists hosted a community meeting on Thursday to update the public on how pollution from the Tonawanda Coke plant may have impacted soil in nearby communities. A federal judge ordered Tonawanda Coke Corp. to fund the $711,000 study after the company was convicted of violating the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

During the public meeting scientists shared maps modeling the estimated distributions of various pollutants at 6 inches below the surface of the ground. The maps were completed as part of the study. "The maps are useful because they guide us in understanding what region of the study area may have been impacted by pollution," Joseph Gardella Jr, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo, who is leading the study, said before the meeting.

Below are maps that show the Tonawanda Coke Soil Study area. The Tonawanda Coke Plant is marked with a star. The second shows a map of Benzo[a]pyrene (BAP) equivalents in mg/kg.

Tonawanda Soil Study Area
A map showing the Tonawanda Coke Soil Study area. The Tonawanda Coke Plant is marked with a star. The solid pink line indicates the boundary of the study area, where soil samples have been taken in Phase I sampling. Dashed blue lines indicated regions of interest (ROIs) that soil study researchers investigated in Phase II sampling based on mapping results in Phase I. The boundaries of the ROIs were tested in Phase II sampling by taking samples on both sides of the boundaries.
Tonawanda Coke BAP map
A map of Benzo[a]pyrene (BAP) equivalents in mg/kg. The map shows the modeled surface, as the color darkens, the predicted concentration of BAP equivalents increases. Samples taken on properties owned by the Town of Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda are excluded, due to lack of permission from elected officials. BAP equivalents are a measure used by the EPA to evaluate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations. The TCC soil study used an SCO of 1 mg/kg for BAP equivalents. Intervals below the SCO are of no immediate concern to residents. Intervals which contain values above the SCO do not directly correlate to risk.

You can see all of the maps estimating pollution produced from the study here

Soil analysis is being conducted by a team of scientists from the University at Buffalo and SUNY Fredonia. Findings from research will benefit residents from Grand Island, the City of Tonawanda, the Town of Tonawanda and North Buffalo by providing them with information about what chemicals are in their soil, how widespread any pollution may be, and whether these pollutants may have originated at the Tonawanda Coke Plant.

You can read the entire Tonawanda Coke Soil Study Progress Update here