Chemistry Expert Sees Some Long-Term Concerns at Erie Coke

erie and tonawanda coke.

BY ANDREW HYMAN republished from Erie News Now

Release date: April 2, 2019


Crews have just a few days to finish cleaning up and disposing of what remains from Sunday’s spill.

It’s a process Joe Gardella says should not be too hard, though, the spill does bring up some long-term concerns.

You have to be careful." Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo, Joseph Gardella said”

Gardella has seen it before.

 "Obviously, it can be dangerous." said Gardella

 But after Sunday’s chemical spill at the Erie Coke plant, the long-time environmental expert says the real hazard is within the plant itself.

"Your biggest concern are the workers."

Gardella spent years observing the recently-shut down Tonawanda Coke plant in New York State, a plant which saw its own long-term problems with pollution. Problems, which may take decades to clean up.

"Not a great track record." Gardella said

And as the Erie Coke plant deals with its own problems, Gardella says the recent spill just adds to the long-term pollution cleanup, and should the plant ever close.

"I wouldn't want to be kicking up soil, and be exposed." said Gardella

Despite the spill, he says people living near the plant would be most affected by air pollution. And his biggest concern would be possible seepage into Lake Erie, something the department of environmental protection does not believe happened with the spill. 

But in the meantime, he praised efforts by the DEP and local groups like “Hold Erie Coke Accountable, because he says their efforts help keep the plant in check.

"It's good for the community to be monitoring and watching." said Gardella

According to the DEP, 300 gallons of wastewater spilled out of the tank.

From here, Erie Coke will have roughly 60 days to properly get rid of any impacted soil. And about 45 days to do a proper inspection of the area.

Read more about the order below.


(From John Last)

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued its findings Monday after an investigation of a chemical spill at the Erie Coke plant late Sunday afternoon.

The spill occurred at a wastewater treatment plant the company operates on site.

According to the DEP, a hole developed in a large, above-ground storage tank March 18. Erie Coke personnel repaired the hole by welding a large metal plate to the tank. The tank failed Sunday, causing a large volume of wastewater to be released onto the ground and into surrounding structures at the facility.

The wastewater contains, among other regulated substances, benzene, naphthalene, ammonia, and cyanide, the DEP said. According to the agency, Erie Coke committed several violations during the repair of the tank and the cleanup of the spill.  The incident constitutes unlawful conduct and the release of the wastewater creates a danger of pollution to the waters of the Commonwealth, according to DEP.

DEP is ordering Erie Coke to take the tank out of service, remove all waste water from the tank and have a certified professional conduct a tank tightness test within 10 days of the order.

Erie Coke shall submit a plan to remove all waste water from the tank within 3 days of the order. Within 60 days of the order, the waste water and impacted soils and material shall be properly characterized and disposed at a permitted facility.

Within 45 days after the date of the order, Erie Coke shall inspect all piping, sensors, alarms and containment structures associated with the tank to determine structural integrity.

Erie Coke can appeal the action to the Environmental Hearing Board.


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