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Clean Air Coalition to target DuPont in call for DEC action

A local environmental group is calling on state and federal enforcement agencies to put tougher restrictions on pollution from DuPont’s Town of Tonawanda plant.

“DuPont has a history of periods of noncompliance,” said Rebecca Newberry, organizer for the Clean Air Coalition.

“Over the past 10 years the company has been written up with numerous violations by both the Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA, particularly around the way the company reports their emissions,” she said. “And without proper reporting, communities and workers do not know if the company is following the law.”

A settlement approved July 22 in federal court has DuPont paying a $440,000 fine for violations of the Clean Air Act at the plant.

Now, the group will join with the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health at 3 p.m. today in Aqua Lane Park, off River Road in the Town of Tonawanda, to call on the DEC to strengthen the company’s next Title V permit, which must be renewed every five years and is currently under review.

“These permits set the rules for compliance,” Newberry said. “What’s written into the permit are the rules the company has to follow. We want to make sure the rules are fair and they protect workers inside the plant and residents outside the plant.”

United Steelworkers’ District 4, which represents more than 300 employees at the plant, on Aug. 13 also submitted comments to the DEC calling for a public hearing on the permit.

“The USW has identified important environmental issues regarding this permit application that affect the health and welfare of our members and of the community in which this facility operates,” District Director John E. Shinn wrote.

DuPont’s Yerkes plant on Sheridan Drive emits methyl methacrylate, a hazardous air pollutant, in its production of Corian, a solid surface material used for counter tops.

Vinyl flouride, a volatile organic compound and carcinogen, is emitted in the production of Tedlar, which is used to protect exterior surfaces with a thin film.

The groups will also call on DuPont to invest in costly upgrades to its monitoring and leak detection and repair systems.

“Both WNYCOSH and Clean Air are asking DEC to make this a priority but demanding the company makes these investments,” Newberry said. “Some of the things we’re calling for require financial investments from the company and we believe the workforce in that plant and also the residents outside that plant are valuable.”