© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
All of us at Buffalo Toronto Public Media are heartbroken by the senseless tragedy that occurred in our great City on Saturday, May 14th. We are grieving with our community and are committed to helping it heal. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends, and the employees and customers of Tops Friendly Markets.
Environment

Former Tonawanda Coke marks new era with implosion of smokestacks on June 5

coke.jpg
File Photo / WBFO News
/

Three towering smokestacks at the closed Tonawanda Coke plant in the Town of Tonawanda will be imploded June 5. Residents in the surrounding communities are being warned to be prepared for the big bang.
For more than a century, the three stacks have towered over a mixed residential and heavy industry section of the Town of Tonawanda. For generations, they spewed dirty air into the skies high above, mostly at a time when it was a jobs issue.

As concern about the environment rose, the chemicals coming out of the stacks became much more of a concern. Court cases and bankruptcy eventually forced a shutdown. The new owner, Jon Williams, now wants the stacks gone for his planned reuse of the plant.

Emily Terrana, leadership development director and environmental justice organizer for the Clean Air Coalition, said the stacks have poisoned the air for years.

"We've been told that the stacks have been abated of most of the asbestors and other hazardous materials," Terrana said, "and we also know that these stacks have been in operation for over a century and have emitted tons of hazardous material into our air, such as benzene, heavy metals, coal soot and other things. So it's not just going to be regular construction debris."

The coalition said there are potential risks in blowing down the three stacks, the highest being 275 ft. All contaminants are supposed to have been cleaned from their brick and concrete, but River Road will be closed in the area. The coalition is also warning people to be ready to clean their yards and move outdoor furniture and toys inside until after the implosion.

The coalition's Jim Jones said the plant site needs to be cleaned up more than currently planned.

"It's more than just cost. Of course, it costs money, but that cost is more of an investment," Jones said. "So the better we do it, the higher rate of return we recognize. So if we clean up the site to the highest standard, then the reuse of that site can be that much more beneficial."

Does this mark the end of an era? Yes, said coalition member Gary Schulenberg, but the legacy is problematic.

"While some might see the demise of the Tonawanda Coke chimneys as a reason to celebrate, their legacy should process, pause and ponder," said Schulenberg. "The neighborhoods in the area know it's the site of sickness, suffering and death during it's over 100 years of existence. It also reflects corporate malfeasance and government irresponsibility."

Related Content