FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 22, 2009
SCHUMER URGES TONAWANDA COKE PLANT CEO TO TAKE STRONGER ACTIONS TO REDUCE BENZENE EMISSIONS THAT ARE THREATENING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF TOWN RESIDENTS
Levels of Benzene Found in Tonawanda's Air as High as 75 Times the Amount Allowed in NYS, Posing a Real and Present Threat to Residents' Health
In Letter, Schumer Demands Coke CEO Make More Concerted Effort to Decrease Emissions of Benzene
Schumer: Tonawanda Coke Needs a Real Plan to Rapidly Reduce These Dangerous Emissions
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer wrote to the owner and CEO of the Tonawanda Coke Corporation urging the firm to enact measures to reduce the release of harmful benzene emissions from the Tonawanda plant. Data from an EPA and DEC funded study confirms that Tonawanda Coke is responsible for releasing tons of toxic chemical compounds into Western New York’s air each year, resulting in levels that are up to 75 times higher than New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommended guidelines in some areas. Senator Schumer noted that while the plant has attempted to reduce levels of certain toxins, much more needs to be done to reduce the amount of benzene released into the air.
“I have long championed manufacturing in Western New York and I value Tonawanda Coke’s importance as an employer in the region, but with the health and safety of Tonawanda residents at risk, now is the time to ramp-up efforts to reduce these emissions,” said Schumer. “Studies have proven that exposure to these sky-high benzene levels are harmful and that the emissions from this plant are simply too high. A more concerted effort must be made to prevent these toxic chemicals from making their way into our air. I urge the Tonawanda Coke Corporation to map out a plan to reduce these harmful emmissions -- and present it to the public -- to ensure the health and safety of residents and workers.”
A study funded by the EPA and DEC that took place between July 2007 and July 2008 revealed that benzene levels in many areas in and around the Town of Tonawanda are up to 75 times higher than New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommended guidelines.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term exposure to benzene causes harmful effects on the body and immune system. Residents of the Town of Tonawanda and the surrounding areas have reported health problems due to exposure to the toxic emissions. Serious diseases such as fibromyalgia and many types of cancer are occurring at irregularly high rates and residents are frequently experiencing headaches and increased asthma and allergies.
Senator Schumer has in the past pushed for better, more in depth studies to measure the pollution and identify the sources of benzene in the Town of Tonawanda. Last July, when the high levels of benzene were first detected in the town, Senator Schumer requested that the EPA allocate funds to continue to monitor the dangerous toxins found in the area, a study that is underway and near completion. However, Schumer noted that the results of the July 2007-2008 study clearly indicate that there is a direct link between a resident’s close proximity to the Tonawanda Coke plant and his or her health.
Today, in an effort to protect the health and safety of Tonawanda residents, Schumer wrote to Tonawanda Coke CEO J.D. Crane urging him to reduce the emission of harmful benzene from his plant.
In the letter he wrote, “It is not acceptable to allow the status quo to continue, with ever increasing health problems for Tonawanda residents. I urge you to act swiftly to put in place the measures that will bring the benzene emissions from Tonawanda Coke into compliance.”
A full copy of the letter is below
J. D. Crane
Owner and CEO
Tonawanda Coke Corporation
3875 River Rd
Tonawanda, NY 14150
Dear Mr. Crane,
I write to strongly urge you to develop and implement a plan to significantly reduce the emission of harmful benzene from the Tonawanda Coke plant. The year-long study completed by the NYS Department of Conservation (DEC) has definitively proven that the major source of high levels of benzene in the air is the Tonawanda Coke Corporation on River Road.
As you know, I am a strong supporter of manufarcturing in New York and greatly value the jobs and revenue that your firm provides in the region. But I also share the grave concerns of the residents of Tonawanda about the ongoing air pollution in the Town of Tonawanda and the surrounding area. And while I commend you on your efforts to reduce levels of certain toxins, much more needs to be done to reduce the amount of benzene that Tonawanda Coke releases into the air. I have no doubt that an emissions reduction plan can be developed and implemented in a way that allows the plant to prosper even while protecting public and worker health. As I am sure you are aware, Tonawanda Coke is responsible for releasing tons of toxic chemical compounds into Western New York’s air each and every year.
Data that has been collected through scientific surveying shows that benzene levels in many areas in and around the Town of Tonawanda are up to 75 times higher than New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommended guidelines. Clearly, this figure is unacceptable. Due to the fact that benzene is a known carcinogen, every effort must be made to greatly reduce the amount that is being released by Tonawanda Coke. Residents of the Town of Tonawanda and the surrounding area are experiencing numerous health problems resulting from these toxic emissions. Serious diseases such as fibromyalgia and many types of cancer are occurring at irregularly high rates among Tonawanda residents. This in addition to less serious ailments such as constant headaches, and increased asthma and allergy rates, are proof enough that something is happening to the town’s residents. It is no coincidence that those suffering from serious health problems live in close proximity to the Tonawanda Coke plant.
Again, residents of the Town of Tonawanda and the surrounding area have had enough, and they want to see action in regards to benzene emissions. With irrefutable evidence from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Clean Air Coalition, these residents need to be listened to, and their demands must be taken into consideration. I have long championed manufacturing in Western New York and I value Tonawanda Coke’s importance as an employer in the region, but it is clear that to protect public and worker health, benzene -- and other toxic -- emissions must be reduced with all due speed. I urge you to act swiftly to put in place the measures that will bring the benzene emissions from Tonawanda Coke into compliance with all relevant state and local laws, regulations and guidelines. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter, and I look forward to your reply.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator