An ongoing state review of air monitoring operations by the Department of Environmental Conservation has galvanized local leaders to press for continued monitoring in the Town of Tonawanda's industrial corridor.
Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana added his voice to the mix Monday in a letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens.
"A comprehensive air monitoring program is critical to a [groundswell] of activity under way in the Town of Tonawanda," he wrote, in part. "The initiation of monitoring in July 2007 was an essential first step to identify the nature and sources of emissions in our industrial areas, and guide subsequent regulatory and voluntary initiatives."
"Over the years, the DEC has been able to track changes in emission levels, including an 86 [percent] drop in benzene since commencement of the Tonawanda Air Quality Study," Caruana wrote.
Funded by the DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the monitoring program was to be a yearlong project to monitor hazardous air pollutants in the town. Four monitoring sheds were installed: off Grand Island Boulevard, at Beaver Island State Park, near the Sheridan Park water tower and off Brookside Terrace West, which borders a residential area in the City of Tonawanda.
Before that program began in 2007, members of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York -- a community group -- and the University at Buffalo's chemistry department had been working with the DEC to identify air pollution and improve air quality in the town and surrounding community.
Though the DEC has offered assurances that the two remaining sheds -- on Grand Island Boulevard and off Brookside Terrace West -- won't be shut down this year, the coalition isn't taking the agency at its word.
"It's still a possibility," Erin Heaney, the coalition's director, said Monday night. "There's a very real chance they could be shut down."
Grand Island Boulevard is at the epicenter of local industry and the traffic on the South Grand Island Bridges. As for Brookside, "That's the way the wind blows," Heaney said.
Caruana, speaking at the end of Monday's Town Board meeting, said: "We strongly recommend to the DEC that they continue to do so."