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Tonawanda Coke site sold to developer, as remediation questions remain

File photo

A federal bankruptcy court judge in Buffalo has approved the sale of the former Tonawanda Coke property. After being fined $25 million over its toxic emissions and hazardous waste practices, the company filed for Chapter 11 and shuttered its River Road plant last year.

The new owner is Jon Williams, whose company Ontario Specialty Contracting has cleaned up other sites across the area. Under terms of the sale Williams areed to pay all of Tonawanda Coke's real property taxes, assume all liability for the site, and will be conducting a sale of personal property on the site to generate additional cash for Tonawanda Coke's estate.

Tonawanda Coke's bankruptcy case was handled by attorney James Thoman, who said the sale allows the debtor to take the next steps in its Chapter 11 case.

"The debtor will no longer be in control of the site. It will be transferred to Mr. Williams. It allows us to move on with the bankruptcy case and consider what the next steps are for creditors," Thoman said, outside of the courtroom.

Clean Air Coalition Executive Director Rebecca Newberry says the sale does not absolve Tonawanda Coke or Honeywell, the site's previous owner, from remediating the property.  

"The community will continue to stay vigilant and push the New York state commissioner and the governor to refer the site to the federal Superfund program. The federal Superfund program is the only program that will engage in cost-recovery where a polluter can be held accountable to clean up this mess, and that's what we want. We want the polluters to clean up their mess" Newberry said.

Williams says Honeywell's obligations under both clean up programs are the same.  If the brownfield cleanup is approved and the site is cleaned to the state's satisfaction, Williams plans to redevelop the site as a data center.