TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Local environmentalists picketed outside of the DuPont Yerkes plant on Thursday, arriving just ahead of several elected officials who were invited to tour the site throughout the morning.
The facility on Sheridan Drive mainly manufactures Corian for use in countertops and other materials, and was recently granted a $550,000 tax credit through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s greater statewide economic stimulus plan designed to promote job creation.
Activists, however, pointed to the fact that it is also the site of a fatal explosion in 2010 in which federal officials found plant managers at fault when flammable vapors weren’t cleared from a chemical tank prior to welding.
According to Erin Heaney of the Clean Air Coalition, the Environmental Protection Agency also fined the plant $165,000 in May for violations of the Clear Air Act.
“Gov. Cuomo must stop subsidizing corporate polluters. It’s inexcusable to give away our tax dollars to a company that violated the Clean Air Act as recently as six months ago,” said Heaney, who organized the 10 a.m. protest.
Union officials have also taken issue with the fact that the tax credit, designed to promote new business and jobs at the plant, comes as management has announced its intention to lay off six union workers.
A statement from Plant Manager Ronald Lee, however, makes clear a “substantial investment is in the works” at the plant.
“At our invitation, a number of elected officials, their staff members, business neighbors and community members visited DuPont Yerkes today to see and hear about how our Corian and Tedlar business units are working to sustain the future of our site and Western New York,” Lee said in a written statement to the News.
“In particular, we wanted them to know that the DuPont company’s recent substantial investment in our Tonawanda site is evidence of the company’s confidence in our workforce. This investment made it possible to install new equipment here to manufacture Corian Private Collection, a product that was previously made in Ulsan, Korea.”