Tonawanda News

The Town

June 23, 2013

PATTERN OF POLLUTION

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — Workers sued Crane, who admitted he violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires that a company with at least 100 employees provide staff members with 60 days written notice before a mass closing or layoff. 

The Federation for Industrial Retention and Renewal put the closing of Detroit Coke on its “dirty dozen list” for irresponsibly shutting down the plant, abandoning workers and the community. 

Not only were the employees left high and dry, Crane also left the site in a state of environmental disarray. Patricia Lawton, of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said numerous pits of hazardous coal tar were left on the property and that soil and groundwater were contaminated. 

In 1999, eight years after Crane abandoned the plant, Honeywell took over for a former owner of the site, Allied Chemical Corporation, and voluntarily entered an administrative order to fund the cleanup.

The remediation is still ongoing, Steven Hoin of the DEQ said. 

Despite being the most recent owner of the site before it was abandoned, Crane was not held financially responsible for cleaning it up.

“We have not been engaging with the former Detroit Coke (owner) for the project,” Hoin said. “He is not on board.”

Show Me State showdown

Another Crane enterprise, Carondelet Coke, offers a worrying snapshot of what could be in store for Tonawanda’s plant and local taxpayers if hefty fines force its closure. 

Crane operated Carondelet Coke in St. Louis from 1980 until 1987 before abandoning the site, officials there said. After shuttering the plant, he neglected to pay taxes for at least three years, and, in 1992, the city finally foreclosed and took ownership of the property. 

“When taxes are more than three years delinquent, the government files suit ... and there is a foreclosure sale,” said Otis Williams, deputy executive director of the St. Louis Development Corp. “We are the receiver of all properties that are not bought at the sale.”

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