By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says it has no plans to remove one of two air monitoring devices located in the heart of a heavily industrialized area despite claims by a local environmental group to the contrary.
The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York said a DEC representative informed the organization in October that one of the monitors “may be removed” following an internal review by the state that is examining more than 80 such locations as a cost-saving measure.
But that doesn’t mean that a decision has yet been rendered, according to Rebecca Newberry, program director of the coalition.
“They’re correct in stating that nobody currently has plans to discontinue the monitors,” she said. “But in March that review will be public. What we’re doing is being proactive. We need to keep those monitors here.”
The coalition launched a petition campaign in the last few weeks to counter any removal, Newberry said.
In an email correspondence with the Tonawanda News, a DEC spokesperson said there are no plans to shut down either the Grand Island Boulevard or Brookside Terrace monitoring sites in 2012.
The email also noted the DEC is in the process of completing an annual statewide air monitoring network review, and once it is complete a public notice will be published, presumably in May. At that time, a network review may contain a proposal to shut down one or more monitoring sites statewide toward the end of the year.
It is not anticipated, though, that the review will affect the Tonawanda sites, the spokesperson indicated.
Newberry said her organization will remain persistent in its efforts to send a message to the state. She said the Tonawandas used to have four monitoring sites following a finding the Tonawanda Coke plant on River Road was emitting more than 30 times the legal limits of benzene into the air through its production process.
Newberry said the monitors have shown benzene and formaldehyde levels are still high — and while benzene levels have dropped significantly at the coke plant, part of that is due to a decrease in production because of a poor economy.
So far the coalition has more than 700 signatures on a petition they will send to the DEC in the near future.
“Our concern is what happens when production goes up,” she said. “Without those monitors, there’s no way of knowing if things are increasing or decreasing.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan
at 693-1000, ext. 4115.