Tonawanda News

The Town

March 22, 2013

Tonawanda Coke's expert contradicts EPA, DEC

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Tonawanda Coke’s expert witness Marcia Williams testified Thursday that the company complied with every recycling regulation on the books — analysis that strongly contradicts the prosecution’s witness testimony earlier in the trial.

Williams, a former Environmental Protection Agency official who now works as an environmental consultant, served as an expert for the defense on the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act, a federal law named in three of the 19 indictments against the Tonawanda Coke facility and its environmental manager. 

Those three counts deal with the illegal storage, disposal and treatment of hazardous waste, namely by the inappropriate recycling of coal tar sludge, a byproduct of the coke-making process.

Previously, EPA and DEC officials said the company, in violation of RCRA, mixed the sludge back in with the coal on a permeable surface, and not a required concrete pad, before putting the mixed material back into the coke ovens to be cooked again. 

As a result, contaminants were absorbed into the ground in the outdoor facility, quite possibly including benzene, a known carcinogen. 

But Williams, who worked at the EPA for 18 years and helped develop a number of regulations, said that the material does not fall under RCRA’s solid waste requirements, and that the plant did not engage in land disposal. 

“There’s no land disposal,” she said. “Mixture on coal piles doesn’t constitute land disposal.”

She also said that the recycling process begins with the mixture of the sludge with the coal, and therefore, the concrete paid isn’t even necessary.

Upon cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rocky Piaggione made a point of questioning Williams on her compensation for her testimony.

“Are you being paid for your opinion?” he asked.

“I usually try to get paid when I work. I think most of us do,” she responded. 

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