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Letter: State will ensure thorough cleanup of Tonawanda Coke

The cleanup of Tonawanda Coke must proceed as swiftly and thoroughly as possible. Fortunately, New York has the nation’s most effective programs to comprehensively address our legacy of industrial contamination. The state Superfund and Brownfield Cleanup programs often restore contaminated sites to productive use more efficiently than federal programs alone. The story, “What Tonawanda can learn from other shuttered coke plants,” missed this critical point.

As New York learned with the lackluster, federally led cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River, the state must remain in the driver’s seat to make sure these cleanups remove contamination and achieve their targets.

In New York, we have addressed more than 1,800 sites through the state’s multi-billion-dollar Superfund Program. And through the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, we have cleaned up and put back into productive use nearly 400 sites since 2006 using private – not public – funds.

Already a state Superfund, our work is underway at the former Tonawanda Coke site. Since the plant shut down in October following the state’s enforcement actions, the Department of Environmental Conservation has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency to stabilize and investigate the site.

Whether Tonawanda Coke is ultimately cleaned up as a federal or state Superfund site, or enters the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, we will demand a comprehensive investigation to fully understand the nature and extent of contamination and address any potential threats to public health or the environment.

Across the state, DEC optimizes strategies based on lessons learned from successful cleanup projects, including similarly contaminated industrial sites like Morgan Materials and the Bethlehem Steel site.

New York State is on the job and committed to a comprehensive cleanup that the Tonawanda community deserves.

Basil Seggos, Commissioner

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Albany

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