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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Begins Assessment of Tonawanda Coke Facility as Shutdown Operations Wrap Up

10/23/2018
Contact Information: 
Tayler Covington (covington.tayler@epa.gov)
212-637-3662

(New York, N.Y.) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is continuing to secure the Tonawanda Coke Corporation (TCC) facility in Tonawanda, N.Y and has launched a comprehensive assessment of environmental conditions at the facility in a continuing effort to protect the surrounding community. On October 14, 2018, TCC suspended operations and initiated process shutdown to permanently close its facility, a process that was overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). EPA has worked closely with the NYSDEC throughout the facility shutdown process, which included shutting down coke ovens and purging them of gases. NYSDEC has asked that EPA take the lead on conducting an assessment of the facility.

“At the request of our state partner, the NYSDEC, EPA is leading a comprehensive assessment of environmental conditions at this notoriously unsafe and polluted facility,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “Despite efforts by New York State and EPA, Tonawanda Coke Corporation would not run its facility in compliance with state and federal environmental law. EPA is taking all necessary steps to safeguard the community and secure the facility, while looking towards future cleanup needs.”

As the lead agency for the assessment and post-shutdown operations, EPA will:

  • More permanently secure the site;
  • Maintain utilities to the facility;
  • Maintain process water and stormwater treatment systems;
  • Assess and address any immediate risks posed by the facility; and
  • Evaluate additional cleanup needs and take further actions as appropriate.

On October 15, EPA began conducting real-time air monitoring in and around the facility for sulfur dioxide, fine particles, and volatile organic compounds, including benzene, in the event of an incident at the facility during shutdown operations. Air sampling was also conducted at each of the stations for benzene. Air surveillance stations are located at the gate house of the facility and in five locations in the nearby community, including an elementary school. Air monitoring and sampling continued until after shutdown was complete and all flammable gases were purged from the system.  

Laboratory analyses are being performed on these samples. EPA’s validated data, preliminary data, and real-time monitoring of air all indicate that there have been no exceedances of levels established to protect the public. Community updates will be posted at EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/ny/tonawanda-coke-corporation-tcc-site.

Background

EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have worked closely with New York State, local officials and the community in recent years to address violations of environmental requirements at the coke, coal by-product and coal tar manufacturing facility.

EPA and the state have worked especially closely with the impacted community in their collective work. The federal government and the state have taken multiple actions in recent years. In 2013, the federal government secured criminal convictions against the corporation and an individual, and in 2015, the federal government and the state secured a federal Judicial Consent Decree that detailed the steps necessary for the facility to comply with federal and state environmental law.

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