Sunday, August 29, 2010

Water Pollution: Tonawanda Coke discharges Toxic Cyanide

Things do NOT go better with Tonawanda Coke.
The Buffalo area company that produces foundry coke for the steel industry has already been cited by the EPA for pollution of the air with carcinogenic benzene (and what about the land? -- see blackened area on the map).
Now EPA finds the company is discharging toxic cyanide into the water!

[Click image to enlarge]
EPA Issues Order to Tonawanda Coke for Clean Water Act Violations
In its ongoing efforts to require Tonawanda Coke Corporation (TCC) to comply with environmental regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered the coke manufacturing facility to comply with its Clean Water Act permit. Among other violations,
Tonawanda Coke Corporation is discharging industrial wastewater containing cyanide in excess of its permit limits into the town of Tonawanda’s sanitary sewer system, which ultimately discharges into the Niagara River from the town’s wastewater treatment facility. Cyanide is a toxic chemical compound, and excessive amounts may adversely impact human health, fish and wildlife. EPA is also ordering TCC to properly monitor and treat the wastewater that results from the coke-making process. Under EPA’s order, TCC is required to complete the overdue installation of pollution controls, improve monitoring and provide additional information about operations at the facility.

"Cyanide is toxic and cannot be discharged in amounts that exceed the limits specified in the facility’s permit," said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "If left unchecked and uncontrolled, industrial discharges pollute the environment and may threaten public health. We will continue to work with the state to identify and get the company to rectify the many violations of various environmental laws at this facility."

"Failure to abide by the Clean Water Act can result in chemicals and contamination reaching our waterways," said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. "We will continue to work with EPA to vigorously monitor Tonawanda Coke and ensure that all environmental laws are being followed."
Read more here...

EPA cites coke plant for cyanide violations
Elevated levels put into sewer system
By Mark Sommer
Tonawanda Coke is in hot water with the Environmental Protection Agency again.
This time it’s for putting elevated amounts of cyanide into the Town of Tonawanda’s sanitary sewer system, which ultimately discharges into the Niagara River after being treated.

The EPA on Thursday ordered the coke manufacturing plant to comply with its Clean Water Act permit and to properly monitor and treat the wastewater that results from the coke-making process. The EPA order follows several get-tough actions it has taken in the past year to force Tonawanda Coke to comply with federal regulations, especially over high levels of the carcinogen benzene.

Erin Heaney, executive director of the Clean Air Coalition of WNY, expressed alarm at the illegal levels of cyanide that have been discharged, while praising the EPA for its diligence with Tonawanda Coke. “The EPA is really following through on its notices of violation issued in January,” she said. “They didn’t just come and do a big presentation and leave; they are really making sure that Tonawanda Coke will have safer operations.”

Melissa Brinson, a Town of Tonawanda mother of four, agreed. “They’re taking action now, and I’m really glad to see that. But the big question is, how long has this gone on, and what are the long-term health implications?
The full report is at

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Restore the Greatness of our Great Lakes

Fouling our own waters
Government, individual effort needed to keep sewage, pollutants out of lakes
EDITORIAL - The Buffalo News

When it goes down the drain -- or down the toilet -- it is because we don't want it in our houses or in our streets.

Nor should we want it on our beaches. But, according to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council, that is where a lot of our runoff and sewage goes, all too often without the benefit of being run through a proper treatment process first.

The fact that recreational beaches along the Great Lakes and elsewhere are being closed to swimmers more often than in the past is an indication that something is wrong. But, says the council, those alerts are only the tip of a very dirty iceberg.

A study released early this week reported that five cities, including Buffalo, dumped 41 billion gallons of storm water runoff and untreated sewage into the Great Lakes last year, through what are known as combined sewer overflows. That may get diluted in the more than 6 quadrillion gallons in the lakes, but it's still as much water as goes over Niagara Falls in 15 hours -- and it's a health risk. Read more here.

Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Buffalo
Wednesday, September 22 – Friday, September 24
Adams Mark Hotel, Buffalo, NY

NY bans phosphorus in detergent, lawn fertilizer

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A new law to improve water quality makes it illegal for stores in New York to stock fresh supplies of household dishwasher detergents that contain phosphorus.

Stores have 60 days to sell old inventories. Sales for commercial use are to end July 1, 2013. Starting in 2012, a similar ban will apply to lawn fertilizers.

Environmental officials say phosphorus drains into New York lakes and rivers, which turn green with algae, degrading drinking water and reducing oxygen that fish need. More than 100 bodies of water in the state are considered impaired, including Cayuga Lake and Lake Champlain.
Senator Antoine Thompson sponsored this bill.

Invasive Water Plants Removed from Tonawanda Creek
Tonawanda Creek flows into the Niagara River upstream from Lake Ontario. Invasive water chestnut plants that covered a 6 acre region of Tonawanda Creek including parts of the Erie Canal have been removed recently to curtail their spread. Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER mobilized volunteers who worked in conjunction with U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Great Lakes Fish and Conservation Office which operated a mechanical harvester and with Erie County Parks personnel who loaded the plants into dump trucks and hauled them away.

See the WIVB TV News report below:

Woodlawn hides some varied and valuable wetlands

By Gerry Rising
It is sad to see Woodlawn Beach, one of this area’s prime bathing areas, closed to swimming this summer. That one of the Great Lakes has areas so polluted [is a] testament to our abuse of the resources with which we have been blessed. Read more at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Firehouse joins WNY Solar Power Parade

CHEEKTOWAGA, NY – The new solar electric system at the Bellevue Fire District #9 firehouse has saved over $2,000 in electrical costs since the beginning of the year. The 140-panel photovoltaic system is on tract to produce an expected 29,260 kilowatt hours of electricity per year for the building at 511 Como Park Blvd. in Cheektowaga.

“With the increasing costs of energy, we wanted to offset some of our electrical costs in a way that wouldn’t raise the fire district budget,” explained Commissioner Jamie Casucci of the Bellevue Fire District. “There’s no down side to solar energy. The solar panel system will help prevent additional burden on the taxpayers from rising electricity rates.”

Most of the 28 kilowatt system’s cost was funded by a $137,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The remaining upfront cost will be paid back in just 6 years from the value of the electricity it produces. The Fire District is expecting to save $191,000 in energy costs over the system’s minimum 25-year warranted lifetime. That’s a 17.4% annual rate of return on investment.

The photovoltaic solar system was installed by Solar Liberty of Buffalo, which has recently completed similar systems for the Eggertsville Fire Department and South Dayton Fire Department.

“When public or nonprofit facilities use solar, they demonstrate to the community that upgrading a building with a solar energy system makes sense both financially and environmentally,” said Adam Rizzo, President of Solar Liberty. “Saving money on electricity is especially important for organizations that are dependent on the community for their support.”

Aside from saving money, the fire hall is a much greener building. The system will offset the firehouse’s carbon footprint by 501 tons of CO2 during the next 25 years of solar electricity production. This is the equivalent of planting a forest of 20,000 trees or removing 911,000 miles of automobile traffic from the roads.

“We’re currently looking at other ways to update the building in an effort to be more environmentally friendly while taking steps to save money,” according to Commissioner Casucci.

A Parade of Solar Power in Western NY

Solar Liberty has been installing hundreds of solar energy systems statewide for government, commercial, and residential customers. Recent local installations have been completed at dozens of Catholic Diocese schools, the downtown Merchant’s Insurance headquarters, and the town of West Seneca, as well as many Western New York State homes. Major upcoming installations are the 1.1 MW University at Buffalo solar project, the NFTA Bus Garage, and the Rochester International Airport.

Western NY has the Sun, and we've got Clean, Renewable Power!

New Enviro Website in Town

GrowWNY is a new hyper-local source of information about living green in Western New York.

This website is for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, cares about the environment and wants to know the best places to go and things to do, eat, live, work and play greener.

GrowWNY is a project of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and is made possible through grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources.

To check out
GrowWNY, click here.

Scajaquada Summit on Water Quality

NY State Senator Antoine M. Thompson is gathering all stakeholders to discuss Scajaquada Creek water quality.

Thursday, August 19th from 10:00 to 11:30
Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society [MAP]

The meeting will last 90 minutes. Short opening presentations will be given by:
  • Julie O'Neill - Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper
  • Bogdan Fundalinski - - History of the Creek and a proposal to increase flow
  • Jerry Palumbo - NYSDEC - Regional Water Engineer - Sewer overflows into the Creek
  • Joseph Dispenza - President - Forest Lawn Cemetery - Proposal for the Creek which flows through the Cemetery
Come find out about plans and possibilities for cleaning up the creek and add your voice to the discussion. The purpose of this session will be to assemble stakeholders and those who have expressed concerns and ideas about improving the water quality in Scajaquada Creek. With help from participants we will update everyone on current plans and proposals and explore the best next steps for both short and long range improvements to Creek water quality.

The Senator would like to see this meeting result in an ongoing concentrated effort to improve Creek water quality. Some of the steps he would like to see explored and addressed are:
  • Develop a way to regularly clean the trash racks and areas in the Creek where trash pools;
  • Safely dredge pollution hot spots in the Creek, including the the “sediment” island that has formed in the Creek as it surfaces between the 198 and the Buffalo Historical Society);
  • Create a wetland before the Creek goes underground to filter toxins from the Creek before it comes into Buffalo;
  • Eliminate the sewer overflows that empty into the Creek;
  • Define the process and develop an estimate of the cost to uncover the Creek as it flows from Pine Ridge Road to Forest Lawn Cemetery;
  • Develop the institutional capacity to advocate for Scajaquada water quality and see projects through to their completion;
  • Create a Scajaquada Creek Protection Zone where new projects would need to have either no impact or a net positive impact on Creek water quality
If you are interested in helping with follow-up from the Summit or want more details please email or call Bill Nowak at 854-8705.

Please note - the August 19th session of Business Gets Green at the Merriweather Library has been postponed. The next session is set for Thursday, October 21st. However, we hope you will be able to attend the Scajaquada Summit!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Water Plants gone Wild! Volunteers Needed

Water Chestnut plants have covered the surface of Tonawanda Creek near Ellicott Island Park and parts of the Erie Canal (see photo). This invasive plant eliminates native plants by forming a dense layer on the surface that blocks sun from reaching the native plants underwater. Water chestnut invasions also limit boating and fishing.
[Buffalo News photo - Click to enlarge]

Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER
's new habitat restoration program, RestoreCorps, is to aiming to remove the water chestnut by mobilizing VOLUNTEERS in conjunction with U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Great Lakes Fish and Conservation Office which will use a mechanical harvester to remove plants for six days starting August 2nd. About 200 metric TONS of plants will be removed from a 6 acre area.

VOLUNTEERS are needed in two ways:

1. From Monday, August 2 through Friday, August 6, between 8am to 6pm daily, volunteers are needed to off-load plants from the harvester onto a conveyor system escalating up the bankside to the parking lot, where plants will be loaded into dump trucks and transported to a compost facility.

2. On Saturday, August 7 from 8:30 am-12:30 pm, volunteers are needed to hand pull any remaining plants from the shoreline and from the water by canoe, kayak, and boat. Volunteers will be trained in proper removal techniques.

To VOLUNTEER, please contact Bryan LoVullo by calling 852-7483, extension 23, or by E-mail at

For more information, see an article in The Buffalo News and additional photos at

A video from WIVB News is below: