Tonawanda News

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June 20, 2012

Photo project a show of concern for activists

Project to capture pollution images from residents of the Tonawandas

Tonawanda News — Tonawanda has the highest concentration of pollution-creating factories and Erie County has the poorest air quality in the state, according to federal and state data.

And it is partly because of those reasons that a local environmental group is asking residents to submit examples of the pollution in the region through a photo exhibit.

The PhotoVoice Project began last year on the West Side of Buffalo near the Peace Bridge, where for decades residents have complained of extreme levels of pollution resulting in a slew of health-related afflictions they say is due to the heavy vehicle traffic idling while crossing the border.

But organizers of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, who launched the endeavor, soon discovered there was much more to be had.

It formed partnerships among neighbors, who dug up examples of how pollution was affecting their neighborhoods, and it put real time visual images into the hands of many people who otherwise would have remained uninvolved.

But with 53 factories affecting a 2-square-mile area in the Tonawandas and the leftovers of other forgone industries often leaving brownfields in their wake, Clean Air officials decided it was time to bring their exhibit to the suburbs of the city, where the organization began when it proved that the Tonawanda Coke plant was committing gross violations of state and federal air quality laws.

“We did this on the West Side of Buffalo to start a conversation on the things that people wanted to protect,” said Erin Heaney, executive director of the coalition. “We interact with a lot of folks who want to get involved by don’t necessarily want to be controversial or political. This is perfect for them.”

Danielle Freeland, a Clean Air community organizer, said any type of photo will be accepted, abstract or otherwise, but the real emphasis will be samples of environmental degradation, whether it be pesticides, air or water qualities, or neighborhood issues.

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