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Activists, leaders urge state to shut down Tonawanda Coke

Michael Mroziak

Concerned citizens joined the leaders of Grand Island and the City of Tonawanda Monday outside the entrance of Tonawanda Coke, urging members of the public to put pressure on state envionmental officials to halt operations at the River Road facility.

Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cited the company for environmental violations and issued a cease and desist order to halt discharges through its smoke stacks. The DEC intended to revoke the company's permits but Tonawanda Coke submitted a request earlier this month for a hearing.

That hearing is scheduled to take place Oct. 10 at the DEC Region 9 office in Buffalo.

Community activist and Grand Island resident Jennifer Pusatier said people have endured years of frustration and want the DEC to shut the company down. 

"We all take that bridge when we come home or leave and we constantly see tha black smut," she said of the stacks. "If the wind is right, the whole island is commenting, 'we can smell it, they're burning it,' and now it's just non-stop."

Pusatier stood with other community activists, Grand Island town supervisor Nathan McMurray and City of Tonawanda mayor Rick Davis to urge the state to close Tonawanda Coke. They encouraged used of the social media hashtag #stopthestacks to follow developments.

Five years ago, Tonawanda Coke was found guilty of violating the Clear Air Act and fined millions of dollars. Jackie James-Creedon of Citizen Science Community Resources says many may have thought the company closed after that verdict, but it's still operational today.

"As a community, we constantly sit on the edge of our seats, for those of us who know now that it is still operating," she said. "A constant anxiety, an angst that we have, wondering what's going to be the next incident because there have been a few."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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