Tonawanda News

The Town

June 23, 2013

PATTERN OF POLLUTION

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — “There were cracks in many of the ovens, which were very old,” Guth said. “That led to incomplete combustion ... and a lot of emissions.”

The agreement also contained a $4 million fine, with an additional $2 million in to be put in escrow for the DEP if the improvements were not made. With the three-year deadline for finishing the improvements looming, Guth said the company has “more than met” the standards outlined in the agreement.

Local residents can only speculate why negotiations with Erie Coke were more successful than similar efforts in Tonawanda. But the Erie agreement came only after the Tonawanda plant was raided by federal investigators and Kamholz personally was named in the resulting 19-count federal indictment.

And although complaints in Erie have decreased since the repairs have begun, the effects of the pollution are still unknown. The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are in the process of completing a health-effects study similar to the New York Department of Health study in Tonawanda, which found statistically significant elevated rates of cancer among those living near the plant.

Detroit Coke meets abrupt end

In a courtroom in 2010, while defending Erie Coke’s right to stay open, Crane said he’s perfectly capable of closing a plant in one day. 

He knows because he’s done it before.

Crane purchased Detroit Coke in 1980. Although the Environmental Protection Agency was unable to confirm the reports, the Detroit Metro Times wrote that the agency made repeated failed attempts throughout the decade to get the plant to comply with the Clean Air Act and other federal regulations.

In 1991, the EPA threatened to shut down the plant for failing to obey air quality standards, the Metro Times reported. 

Then, just a month later on Sept. 12, 1991, Crane locked the doors. Employees said they were given two hours notice or less of the plant’s closing.

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