Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — A group of local residents gathered in the town Wednesday night to yet again discuss the hazardous and potentially deadly environmental conditions in the area — but this time, activists said they see change on the horizon.
"I'm writing to the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency, and just so you know, we've got their ear," said Jackie James Creedon, the founder of the Tonawanda Community Fund and an environmental activist. "I'm hopeful we're going to be able to move forward with this."
The public meeting, put on by the Tonawanda Community Fund and the group's sponsor, the Wellness Institute, focused on the fund's recent soil testing completed in the industrial corridor in the Town of Tonawanda. The soil tests portrayed a frightening picture for the area's health, but Creedon and others are hoping they will act as impediments for change.
"It is a process, and it may take a long time," Phil Haberstro, of the Wellness Institute, said. "But if we stay together, we'll prevail over time."
The meeting began with Creedon explaining the testing she initiated after a reporter from an Alabama TV station told her about soil testing that had been completed in north Birmingham where two coke foundries operate.
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 EPA began a study of the soil and air in Birmingham in 2009, and even shoveled soil out of some area yards. The EPA is continuing to conduct additional monitoring of the area surrounding the plants, hoping to identify the source and remedy the emission problem.