Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — A local environmental crusader released alarming soil samples showing high levels of a known carcinogen Tuesday and called on governmental agencies to investigate.
Jackie James Creedon, along with members of her group the Tonawanda Community Fund, initiated the testing after a reporter from an Alabama TV station told her about soil testing that had been completed in north Birmingham where two foundry coke plants operate.
Creedon has been a frequent critic of the Tonawanda Coke plant’s operations.
The results from Birmingham indicated high levels of benzo(a)pyrene, one of the most dangerous chemicals that is formed when burning coal, oil, gas and tobacco.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, long-term repeat exposure to benzo(a)pyrene has caused cancer, and, not surprisingly, residents that live in Birmingham have been suffering from serious illnesses.
“The soil was so toxic, that the EPA was shoveling it out of people’s yards,” Creedon said.
The EPA began a study of the soil and air in Birmingham in 2009, are continuing to conduct additional monitoring of the area surrounding the plants in hopes to identify the source and remedy the emission problem.
The news from Birmingham both inspired and worried Creedon. She began organizing similar soil tests in the industrial area of the town, including James, Kaufman and Sawyer avenues.
The fund’s members, Charles Matteliano from TEQ Solutions and Andrew Baumgartner, a student at University of Buffalo, began the study in November. Samples from a playground and five homes were taken, as well as a control test from Beaver Island State Park, a mile away from the industrial area and upwind from the plant’s emissions.
“We found the same chemicals in our soil that were in Birmingham,” Creedon said.
The levels of benzo(a)pyrene in the soil samples were, on average, higher than the sample conducted at Beaver Island, and ranged from 0.5 to 4.1 parts per million.