Tonawanda News

The Town

June 23, 2013



Tonawanda News — “Property” is a nice way of describing a site that stood in utter decay. Photos taken by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2012 show an industrial wasteland with crumbling, graffiti-covered buildings littering the site.

When operational, the Missouri plant followed Crane’s M.O. 

The site, too, was plagued by a variety of environmental concerns such as asbestos in the factory’s buildings and various chemicals — including benzene, the chemical the Tonawanda facility was cited as emitting at 10 times the legal limit — were found in the soil and groundwater. 

The city agency deemed the 42-acre site “unsafe with significant levels of contamination,” and the state scored the property as greater than 28.5 on the federal government’s Hazard Ranking System, making it eligible for the priority Superfund list. 

The city could have had the property listed as a Superfund site and forced the responsible owners to pay for the remediation. But Williams said the agency opted for a different route to expedite the process and avoid the stigma of the national program, and instead attempted to negotiate with the three former principal owners: Laclede Gas Company, Great Lakes Carbon and Crane’s corporation, Carondelet Coke.

Laclede and Great Lakes sat down with the city and voluntarily agreed to contribute funds to the costly cleanup. Crane gave nothing.

“We attempted to bring the most recent owner into the negotiation conversations, and they refused,” Williams said. 

Although the two previous owners did give $471,250 each, an investigation by Post-Dispatch reporters Jeremy Kohler and Tim Logan revealed that taxpayers funded the rest of the cleanup through $12.3 million of state brownfield tax credits, funds that were then subtracted from Missouri’s budget.

Now, more than 20 years after Carondelet Coke was abandoned, the property is finally cleaned up and ready for reuse — no thanks to Crane. 

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