Tonawanda News

Local News

March 16, 2013

Tonawanda Coke manager demoted?

Lawyer calls Cahill's reassignment temporary

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — In response to Linsin’s concerns, Skretny said he will monitor the news and, as he has done throughout the trial, instruct the jury not to read media reports about the case.

After the discussions, the prosecution called a former plant superintendent, Ron Snyder, to the stand. Snyder resigned from the plant in 2005 after the company demoted him unexpectedly.

On direct examination, Snyder testified about the plant’s alleged violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The testimony comes the day after the prosecution’s expert witness on the law, Environmental Protection Agency official Philip Flax, testified the plant violated regulations by improperly storing and disposing of coal tar sludge, a byproduct of the coke-making process that is classified as hazardous waste.

Snyder backed up those claims by testifying that the sludge was mixed back in with coal on an outdoor, permeable surface, allowing it to seep into the ground.

“If it rained, water would run off into coal-filled ditches,” Snyder said of the area where the sludge was mixed. “From there, I have no idea where it went.” 

Thursday, Flax testified federal law requires the sludge to be mixed on an impermeable surface to prevent the kind of ground contamination Snyder described from happening. 

Snyder’s participation in the trial itself is controversial. He has become an outspoken critic of the alleged environmental lapses at the the plant after he quit.

During Linsin’s cross examination, Snyder admitted that during conversations with a private investigator, he blamed the state Department of Environmental Conservation for “dropping the ball” on Tonawanda Coke.

The line of questioning is consistent with the defense team’s strategy in the case. Linsin has repeatedly argued that the fault lies with regulators from the DEC and EPA who knew of potential compliance issues at the plant but never followed up, a seemingly implied acceptance of procedures they now cite as criminal violations.

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