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Letter: State-led cleanup program is best for Tonawanda Coke site

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a proven track record of aggressively overseeing the proper cleanup of areas like the former Tonawanda Coke plant.

While we carefully review the current Brownfield Cleanup Program application for the site and the comments we received, our ultimate goal is to ensure a thorough and effective cleanup that protects public health and helps the community turn the page by returning the area to productive use.

Any claim that Tonawanda Coke can only be cleaned up under the federal Superfund program is seriously misguided. Respectfully, the Environmental Protection Agency is the last place the state would turn for cleaning up this site.

As reported widely this month, EPA has the largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years. And even under previous federal administrations, many coke sites like Ironton, Ohio, and Fairmont, W.Va., languished for decades in federal hands.

Conversely, using New York’s strong programs like the BCP and the public-private partnerships it fosters, we have seen the transformation of communities throughout Buffalo.

Most importantly, BCP cleanups must meet the same stringent standards as federal or state Superfund sites, and we will accept nothing less for the Tonawanda Coke site.

Under no scenario will DEC let any responsible parties off the hook. Using legally binding orders under New York’s state Superfund program, DEC will ensure that Honeywell International remediates those portions of the TCC property that constitute the Superfund site.

DEC will continue to work closely and transparently with the Tonawanda community throughout the cleanup process. If accepted into the BCP, we will provide multiple additional opportunities for public input to ensure the community has a voice in the process.

I am proud of DEC’s lead role in permanently shuttering Tonawanda Coke. Now, we will finish the job by ensuring this site is responsibly and aggressively cleaned up.

Basil Seggos

Albany

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