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EPA in New York

Tonawanda Coke Corporation (TCC) Site

Tonawanda, NY

Tonawanda Coke Corporation (TCC) has operated a coke manufacturing facility at this location since 1978, and the property has been used for coke manufacturing since 1917. Coke is a fuel made by heating coal at high temperatures in the absence of air. On October 14, 2018, TCC suspended operations and initiated process shutdown to permanently close its facility.

Aerial view of the Tonawanda facilityThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) led the effort to oversee the safe shutdown of operations which consisted of 60 ovens, 30 of which still remained in operation. In October, the last remaining ovens were fully emptied and purged of gases, marking the end of coke production at the facility. EPA assisted NYSDEC in its oversight of facility shutdown activities through air monitoring. The NYSDEC then turned the lead over to EPA to conduct a full assessment of the facility to determine near term actions that may need to be taken to address risks posed by the facility.

EPA’s work at the facility is expected to continue over many months with sampling to determine areas in need of cleanup work, including excavation and removal of contaminated soil and liquids. EPA will also continue to keep the facility secure, maintain necessary systems and take steps to winterize equipment and pipes.

EPA and 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 Tonawanda TCC 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, including securing a federal Judicial Consent Decree in 2015 (PDF) Exit that detailed the steps necessary for the facility to comply with federal and state environmental law. In addition, the federal government brought criminal charges against the corporation and an individual. The TCC plant facility, located immediately east of the Niagara River, contains coke ovens, supporting structures, and numerous coal/coke piles. The site is divided by River Road, with the main plant facility located to the east and a parcel adjacent to the Niagara River to the west. The site is approximately 160 acres in size, and the nearest residential area is located approximately 0.25 miles south of the site.

Air Monitoring/ Sampling

During the shutdown operations at the facility, EPA conducted air sampling and monitoring and surveillance in the community around the plant until all flammable gases were purged from the process systems.  Six fixed monitoring locations were selected based on wind direction and /or other factors deemed to be relevant to the health and safety of the public.  The purpose of this project was to monitor for benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulates.  EPA also collected air samples for quick turnaround laboratory analysis.  The monitoring and sampling activities began on October 14, 2018 and were completed on October 21, 2018.  Air monitoring and laboratory analyses, as stated in the EPA ERT Air Sampling Report (PDF), indicated that air contaminant levels established to protect the public were not exceeded.