Tonawanda News

The City

July 31, 2013

Activist and students conduct soil testing in city

Tonawanda News — Local students are partnering with local environmental crusader Jackie James-Creedon this summer to complete further soil testing in yards near Tonawanda Coke, the plant that residents and activists have blamed for high rates of cancer and other illnesses. 

“We are trying to keep the issue current and push for funding for a more comprehensive study,” James-Creedon said. 

Students from Kenmore West, Kenmore East and the University at Buffalo were on site Tuesday at a Brookside Terrace West home in the City of Tonawanda collecting samples, which will be tested for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dangerous chemicals that have been proved to cause cancer. 

The home is an appropriate location for testing because it is located near a state Department of Environmental Conservation air monitoring device, and is a stone’s throw away from the notorious River Road plant. The facility, along with its environmental manager, Mark Kamholz, face more than $200 million in fines and 75 years in prison when Judge William Skretny sentences them Sept. 30 for violating two federal environmental laws. 

The round of sampling comes after James-Creedon and her group, the Tonawanda Community Fund, completed another soil study in January near the plant on Town of Tonawanda streets. The results were worrying, as the levels of benzo(a)pyrene — a known carcinogen — in the soil were, on average, higher than than the control samples.

The fund initiated the project after a reporter from an Alabama TV station told James-Creedon about soil testing that had been completed in north Birmingham where two foundry coke plants operate.

The results from Birmingham indicated high levels of benzo(a)pyrene, which is formed when burning coal, oil, gas and tobacco. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is completing remediation work in Birmingham yards that that have 1.5 parts per million of benzo(a)pyrene or greater. In Tonawanda, three out of the seven yards that were tested met that criteria. 

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