Town of Tonawanda lawmakers have joined an effort to direct potential fines to be paid by Tonawanda Coke Corp. to the community it polluted.
In a 4-0 vote Monday, the Town Board adopted a resolution that supports setting aside fine money for the remediation and environmental enhancement of the neighborhood near the River Road plant. Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana was out of town and missed the meeting.
“This resolution was born out of the verdict that came out against Tonawanda Coke,” explained Deputy Town Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger, who took the unusual step of reading the full resolution before the vote.
On March 28, following a monthlong trial in U.S. District Court, a jury found the company and Mark L. Kamholz, its environmental controls manager, guilty of multiple criminal charges related to polluting the air and ground near the plant.
The company and Kamholz face possible fines of more than $200 million; Kamholz also could be sentenced to up to 75 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled July 15.
Keeping the fine money local was proposed by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. “We have to establish immediately – even before there is a specific fine – that whatever this company is fined, it should stay in this community,” he said at a news conference outside the plant, two days after the verdict was announced.
Before Monday’s vote, Councilwoman Lisa M. Chimera recognized the efforts of community activist Jackie James Creedon for “making sure that this issue did not go unnoticed.”
Several years ago, Creedon had led the fledgling Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, which performed air quality tests before the state Department of Environmental Conservation embarked on a yearlong study of its own. That work led to a reduction in emissions of benzene – a known carcinogen – by local industry, including Tonawanda Coke.
In other business Monday, the Town Board:
• Approved a special-use permit for the operation of a used car sales and repair business at 3875 Delaware Ave., which has been vacant for more than two years and last housed a transmission repair shop.
• Approved rezoning an approximately 25,000-square-foot site, in the Colvin-Eggert Plaza, from general business to performance standards use, to allow the construction of a new 5,600-square-foot auto repair facility.
• Awarded an approximately $2.6 million contract to Kandey Co. of West Seneca for a state-mandated demonstration test to attempt to limit ground and rain water entering the sanitary sewer in an area containing 630 homes.