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The community around the Tonawanda Coke plant will have to wait five more months to learn the fate of the company found guilty of illegally releasing benzene into the air and improperly dumping toxic sludge onto the ground.

The judge who will sentence the Town of Tonawanda manufacturer and one of its executives set a new sentencing date of March 19 on Tuesday.

Chief U.S. District William M. Skretny alluded to widespread community interest in the sentencing but made it clear several outstanding issues require a later sentencing date.

Those outstanding issues include two questions at the core of the sentencing: What kind of fine Tonawanda Coke can afford to pay and how serious the harm was that the company caused.

Residents and community activists have been clamoring for a final decision on how large a fine the company will pay and how it will be used.

The company was found guilty of 14 criminal charges during a four-week trial earlier this year. Mark L. Kamholz, its environmental controls manager, was found guilty of 15 criminal charges.

email: citydesk@buffnews.com