Published November 22, 2019
Scientists from UB and SUNY Fredonia hosted a community meeting last night to update the public on the Tonawanda Coke Soil Study.
The purpose of the research, as ordered by a federal judge, is to investigate how pollution from the Tonawanda Coke plant may have impacted soil in nearby communities.
The community meeting took place at Riverview Elementary School in the City of Tonawanda, and about 35 people attended.
Key takeaways from the meeting:
“I lived in the shadow of Tonawanda Coke all my life, and I thought this was an important project that the community needs to be involved in,” says Anne Bazinet, a community advisory committee member and resident of the Town of Tonawanda who had her soil sampled as part of the study. “It’s important to determine if any of the byproducts from Tonawanda Coke affected the community — if their particles landed on our yards, what they could have been, and what kind of potential cleanup there may need to be, if any.”
The fact sheet includes maps shared at the public meeting.
The maps provide insight into geographic areas that may be impacted by pollution, but they do not highlight specific addresses where soil was sampled. The study team cannot publicly identify specific addresses because that data is protected by confidentiality agreements with property owners whose soil was tested. Scientists cannot violate the agreements. As such, the maps do not show individual data points, but instead have contours modeling the generalized, estimated distribution of pollutants in communities.
A federal judge ordered the Tonawanda Coke Corp. to fund the Tonawanda Coke Soil Study after the company was convicted of violating the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Scientists working on source apportionment include Gardella; Tammy Milillo, UB research assistant professor of chemistry; UB chemistry PhD candidate Kaitlin Ordiway; and Michael Milligan, professor of chemistry at SUNY Fredonia. All are experts in environmental chemistry.
Findings from the research will benefit residents in Grand Island, the city of Tonawanda, the Town of Tonawanda and North Buffalo by providing them with information about what chemicals are in their soil, how widespread any pollution may be, and whether these pollutants may have originated at the Tonawanda Coke plant.