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New penalty for Lake Erie coke plant

Tonawanda Coke
WBFO file
Tonawanda Coke

A $500,000 fine in a federal consent decree is the latest environmental penalty for a Pennsylvania coke company based on the Lake Erie shoreline.

And the fine -- which mirrors penalties at a sister plant near Buffalo -- is the latest reminder of the toxic industrial legacy of the Great Lakes.

Tonawanda Coke
Credit WBFO file
Tonawanda Coke

Erie Coke agreed to pay the civil fine to settle allegations that it violated Clean Air Act emission standards for benzene. The proposed decree, which still must be finalized, commits the company to repairs and a monitoring schedule.

The company said it has already corrected some of the problems and is committed to reducing benzene emissions. Benzene is a byproduct of making coke, a fuel derived from coal.

The Great Lakes Echo explainsthat benzene has been linked to  leukemia. And it notes that Erie Coke has run into trouble before --  a 2010 consent decree included a $6 million penalty.

A sister plant, Tonawanda Coke (pictured above), also has had legal troubles over pollution. The plant sits near the Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

A federal jury found Tonawanda Coke guilty in 2013 of violating the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company was fined $12.5 million and ordered to pay another $12.2 million in community service projects; its environmental controls manager was sentenced to prison.

A federal judge later ordered Tonawanda Coke to fund a health study of area residents. A University at Buffalo professor is conducting the study, but it will take years to get results.

Copyright 2016 Great Lakes Today

Dave Rosenthal
Dave Rosenthal is Managing Editor of Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations that is led by WBFO, ideastream in Cleveland in WXXI in Rochester, and includes other stations in the region.
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