Tonawanda News

August 1, 2013

Coke plant's effects detailed

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick said Wednesday he has submitted a victim impact statement to Judge William Skretny on behalf of his constituents who were affected by Tonawanda Coke’s environmental crimes.

In the letter, Hardwick said he has met with residents who live near the plant to discuss what they have experienced.

“It has been heart-rending,” he wrote in the letter. “Many residents I visited would point to the houses on their street and tick off the causes of death or current diseases in each one.” 

The River Road facility in the Town of Tonawanda and its environmental manager, Mark Kamholz, were found guilty in March of violating two federal laws, the Clean Air Act and the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act. The defendants face more than $200 million in fines and 75 years in prison when they are sentenced Sept. 30. 

Today is the deadline to submit victim impact statements to the United State’s Attorney’s Office in Buffalo, and Hardwick said he hoped his letter would assist Skretny in coming up with an appropriate sentence.

“Tonawanda Coke polluted the air ... and we are now just learning of how devastating the impact has been for local residents,” Hardwick said of his letter. “Not only was I infuriated by the situation, I found myself dealing with thoughts of disbelief.”

Hardwick wrote that he hopes Skretny shares his incredulity and will impose a just sentence. 

“Although it is too late for many of the victims who lived on Grand Island and in the Tonawandas, a stiff sentence will serve to safeguard the health and welfare of those who still live in the shadow of the Tonawanda Coke Corporation’s plant,” he wrote. 

Hardwick’s legislative district covers much of the area thought to have been most impacted by pollution coming from the plant.