The Tonawanda Coke Smoke Stacks Are Down but Remediation is Just Beginning  

The Tonawanda Coke Smoke Stacks Are Down but Remediation is Just Beginning  

Clean Air members gather to celebrate bitter sweet smoke stack victory and see a long road ahead for cleanup and healing 

As the three smoke stacks at Tonawanda Coke are demolished on June 5th, Clean Air members celebrate their victories for action on the site while standing firm in the community’s need for vigilance ahead. While the demolition removes one of the most visible symbols of Tonawanda Coke’s toxic history, the legacy and impact of the site remains on the hearts, minds and bodies of Clean Air members and other area residents.

Clean Air members celebrate the proven power of community organizing resulting in the groundbreaking Community Advisory Group on cleanup at the Tonawanda Coke site which has provided necessary transparency and accountability from parties responsible for the site’s ongoing remediation. Without this advisory board, the community would be beholden to New York State remediation programs that are slow and too often do not meet community needs.

“While the demolition of the stacks may be spectacular and very dramatic, the event doesn’t tell the narrative of over 100 years of harm done to our community. It doesn’t reflect the exhaustive measures expended to force the responsible parties to finally correct epic wrongs.  Remembering the past is the only way forward to guide our future.”, -Gary Schulenberg, Clean Air member and Kenmore resident.

After over a decade of community organizing by residents in Tonawanda, Grand Island, Kenmore and Buffalo, one thing has been made abundantly clear; it takes a sustained pressure of a whole community on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, elected officials and other stakeholders to put people’s health and dignity above industry profit and the status quo. Clean Air members will continue to hold the NYSDEC, Honeywell, Jon Williams and other polluters across the region accountable to community health and justice.

The transparency and accountability to the community provided by the Tonawanda Coke Working Group has proven to have a direct impact on the speed and quality of all remediation thus far on the site. Site developer Jon Williams of RITC has proven that his company needs to be held accountable and under the watchful eye of community groups due to his decades long lack of action at the American Axle Brownfield site in Buffalo’s Delavan-Grider community. Clean Air members remain skeptical of future action on the American Axle site until and unless a robust and community driven group is established at the site.

“The demolition of the smokestacks shows the power of community organizing by organizations like Clean Air. Before residents got together at kitchen tables, backyards and union halls, Tonawanda Coke was allowed to violate the Clean Air Act and harm our communities with plumes of benzene and other toxic chemicals.  This event today shows that our communities need to remain vigilant for our own health, safety and dignity. Our work to hold all stakeholders, including the NYSDEC and polluters,  accountable will not stop now that the stacks have been toppled”,  Emily Terrana, Clean Air Environmental Justice Organizer

Tonawanda Coke is one of the most well known hazardous waste sites in the country. In 2014, the site was recognized as the only company in the history of the United States that was found guilty of 14 criminal accounts of violations of the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law that governs ground contamination of hazardous waste.

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The Clean Air Coalition builds power by developing grassroots leaders who organize their communities to run and win environmental justice and public health campaigns in Western New York.



Clean Air Coalition Holds Virtual Meeting to Address Safety Concerns during Tonawanda Coke Stack Explosion

Clean Air Coalition Holds Virtual Meeting to Address Safety Concerns during Tonawanda Coke Stack Explosion

Community organization holds urgent public meeting to advise residents on upcoming explosion on neighborhood  hazardous waste site 

On June 5th, 2021 at 6AM the three infamous smoke stacks will be demolished using explosives at the former Tonawanda Coke Site. When announced by developer Jon Williams of Riverview Innovation and Technology Campus, area residents and Clean Air members identified a number of key questions and concerns regarding the notification process and safety concerns of the monumental, though purely symbolic, event.

Clean Air members are holding a virtual community meeting for members of the community to address the pressing questions regarding the early morning demolition on Thursday, May 27th at 5:00 PM. Clean Air members and staff will share critical information for area residents in the spirit of using an abundance of caution while hoping for the best possible outcome during the historic event on June 5th.

“We are disappointed , but not surprised about the lack of critical safety information provided to the community regarding the pending Tonawanda smoke stack demolition. Clean Air Coalition has consistently supported residents; as well as effectively demonstrating that our community’s health and safety is not negotiable. While we are tired of doing other people ‘s jobs , we know that we are the ones who  keep ourselves and our families safe”.

Maria Tisby Clean Air member and Town of Tonawanda resident

For the past decade, Clean Air has undertaken rigorous investigation of the Tonawanda Coke site, leveraging the passion and expertise of its members and other professionals. With a desire for partnership, Clean Air has presented the DEC, Honeywell and Riverview Innovation and Technology Campus with legitimate questions and concerns regarding demolition of the toxic smoke stacks at the Tonawanda Coke site.  As these stakeholders move forward in the process, Clean Air has earned the right to have its claims taken seriously and addressed.

Tonawanda Coke is one of the most well known hazardous waste sites in the country. In 2014 the site was recognized as the only company in the history of the United States that was found guilty of 14 criminal accounts of violations of the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law that governs ground contamination of hazardous waste.

The online meeting will be held Thursday, May 27th from 5-7pm. Register at bit.ly/tccstacks .More information on our safety concerns can be found on our website, www.cacwny.org.

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The Clean Air Coalition builds power by developing grassroots leaders who organize their communities to run and win environmental justice and public health campaigns in Western New York.



Community meeting on safety concerns at Tonawanda Coke stack demolition:

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The infamous stacks at Tonawanda Coke are being demolished using explosives on Saturday, June 5th at 6am. We know that our members will have a lot of safety questions and concerns so we are holding a virtual meeting on Thursday, May 27th from 5-7pm. You can register at bit.ly/tccstacks.
Here’s a few things we know so far so you can share with your community:
  • The demolition is scheduled for Saturday, June 5th at 6am with a weather delay day scheduled for June 6th at 6am.
  • The demolition will use major explosives and will be very loud. The sound will likely travel for a few miles. They are using major explosive equipment to demolish the stacks
  • If you live very close to the stacks, it might be a good idea to close your windows during the explosion.
  • If you think there will be debris on your property, it will likely be hazardous.
  • If you plan to watch the explosion, it might be a good idea to wear a mask and/or goggles.
  • If you have other urgent questions, call DEC at 716.851.7220 and Jon Williams’ engineering firm at 571.752.6559
Please share this information with your friends, family and neighbors. We will be posting updates on our Facebook and website as we learn more information from the source.
Note: Change of location for community explosion watch event:
We will also gather on June 5th at 5:45AM at Fisherman’s Landing in Grand Island (1510 E River Rd, Grand Island, NY 14072) to remember all of those we have lost and to celebrate our organizing power for health and justice
Visit our website at www.cacwny.org for more information.


We’re Still Fighting For Peace in Seneca Babcock

The following is a message from Diane, long-time member leader from Peabody Street, marking the anniversary of us winning the shutdown of Battaglia Demolition!

‘It’s been three years today since Battaglia Corporation on Peabody Street was shut down by Judge Chimes. Unfortunately, we are still in negotiations to get it cleaned up. I have been working with Clean Air to make it a natural habitat. It’s a shame it’s taking so long, but I am still here, and will keep fighting for it!”

Since the 2018 shutdown of Battaglia Demolition, the property has fallen into abandonment, with piles of concrete dust still swirling from the site through the neighborhood air. The derelict property has become a site with illegal dumping, and is now full of garbage and refuse, attracting rats. Residents on Peabody Street are fighting to obtain a comprehensive cleanup and the transfer of the title of the property to a community-owned land trust, which will give them the power to prevent future illegal manufacturing from moving onto the site and disrupting their neighborhood again. A ranked-choice, neighborhood vote in 2020 overwhelmingly chose to name the trust Diane’s Land, in honor of Diane Lemanski, whose tenacity, resilience, and leadership have been the foundation of this work for decades.

The community’s vision is to restore the site to natural use, with soil remediation and plantings to reduce carbon and air pollution in the neighborhood. If you are interested in joining this work, you can fill out this form to get connected to next steps!



We won! Clean Air Members Celebrate Victory of Community Advisory Group at Neighborhood Hazardous Waste Site

 

We Won!

Clean Air Members Celebrate Victory of Community Advisory Group at Neighborhood Hazardous Waste Site 

Delavan-Grider community wins oversight and accountability board at former American Axle site 

Clean Air members celebrate the creation of a Community Advisory Group on cleanup of the former American Axle site in the City of Buffalo.  The advisory group will be an important step on the long road of rebuilding trust within the community after generations of environmental racism and neglect at the hands of the State and private businesses in a majority Black residential neighborhood in Buffalo. The announcement was made today by Erie County Legislator and Chairwoman April Baskin and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The Community Advisory Group was established because of our work to make the health and wellbeing of our community the DEC’s number one priority. The group is an important step in rebuilding years of broken trust in the DEC by the residents. We look forward to working with Rep. Baskin, the DEC and all other stakeholders to make sure the cleanup is held to the highest standards, and is transparent and accountable to the people in this community. We want our community to be made whole”, Ms. Della Miller, Clean Air American Axle Team Member.

Last summer, the Erie County Legislature unanimously passed two resolutions in support of the establishment of Community Advisory Groups at the former American Axle and Tonawanda Coke sites. In September of 2020, the NYSDEC announced the formation of a Tonawanda Coke Working Group, but then denied the establishment of a similar group at American Axle. The Delavan-Grider community, a primarily working class Black community, named the racism baked into the refusal of their calls for transparency, inclusion and decision making power at a site in their own backyards.

 

The Community Advisory Group will be a forum for community members, organizations and other stakeholders to provide input, oversight and recommendations to the NYSDEC and American-Axle remediation parties, East Delavan Properties, LLC, owned by Jon Williams, the same owner of the former Tonawanda Coke site. The Community Advisory board is a standard practice inside of the federal Superfund cleanup program, and is an important step towards the full transparency and participation that community members have been calling for on the site for over a decade.

“This advisory group is a step in the right direction to address the real harms of environmental racism in the Delavan-Grider Community. We are thankful for the leadership of Rep. Baskin and are pleased that the NYSDEC will be following the leadership of Black women in their decades-long call for answers and action at these hazardous waste sites. Our team will not rest until all of our concerns are acted upon by the NYSDEC and Jon Williams, including off-site testing to give residents the peace of mind they deserve in their own backyards.”, Emily Terrana, Clean Air Environmental Justice Organizer.

The American Axle site located at 1001 East Delavan Ave. has been known to be significantly contaminated.  Approximately 110 thousand gallons of PCBs are located underneath this site. PCBs, known carcinogens, were found to be leaking into the sewer that flows under community members homes. Due to the significant history of soil contamination on this site, residents are particularly concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination.  Families who live near the site are afraid to drink their water and plant gardens in their backyards.

The majority of the 35.6-acre site is being remediated through New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) by East Delavan Properties, funded in part by taxpayer dollars. The site also includes a 2.65-acre parcel that is part of the State Superfund Program supervised by the NYSDEC and paid for by a 2012 settlement with General Motors.



We’re Hiring! A message from Clean Air’s Executive Search Committee


Over the past fourteen years, the Clean Air Coalition of WNY has built a strong foundation. We know what it means to build community, care for one another, and work towards a more beautiful and clear vision for the world that we want to see.

At the end of 2020, Clean Air said goodbye to our friend and leader of ten years, Rebecca Newberry, who accepted a job with The BlueGreen Alliance, a national leader in building a clean economy and environmental protections. Without skipping a beat our Members, Staff, and Board of Directors took this opportunity to celebrate the work we’ve accomplished and envision the leadership we need for the next chapter of Clean Air.

Our Board of Directors led a team that oversaw this transition at Clean Air over the past four months. The Executive Search Committee was established and has members of our Board and Membership working alongside Catherine Bombico of Bombico Consulting. Our team worked to create a clear vision for the next leader of Clean Air and ensure the search process aligns with our mission, vision, and values. This intentional process included the valuable feedback of our Members, Board, and Staff who shared their knowledge and vision for our next Executive Director.

Today we’re excited to share with you that Clean Air is now hiring!

We’re seeking a dynamic Executive Director that will build relationships, support our membership, coach and support our staff organizers, and lead Clean Air into our next chapter through strategic and innovative approaches. Our new Executive Director will step into a strong and growing team committed to organizing poor and working-class communities for environmental justice, and a reputation for winning.

You can view our full Executive Director Job Description online at cacwny.org/jobs. The deadline to apply is April 14th. Please help us spread the word far and wide and if this is an opportunity you are interested in, please consider applying.

With hope, justice, and excitement for our next chapter,

The Executive Search Committee
Joel Bernosky, Sydney Brown, Phylicia Brown, and Jennifer Carman



Join us for our Annual Meeting!

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Let’s celebrate our wins and start looking ahead at what we can accomplish in 2021. Join us for our 2021 Annual Meeting!

Thursday, March 18th, 2021 from 5:30pm-7:00pm online and by phone via Zoom. Register at http://bit.ly/ca2021meeting or download this page, print and mail in your ballot!



February 2021 Newsletter

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Clean Air Connection