City of Tonawanda Included in Coke Healthy Study

TONAWANDA, NY - When Tonawanda Coke was found guilty of violating the Clean Air Act last year, part of the punishment against the company said it had to fund a ten-year health study, which would research the health affects the plant had on nearby residents.

But, one municipality has been left out of the review, until now.

For months, the Town of Tonawanda and Grand Island were the two municipalities that would be part of the study. The research will be done by the University of Buffalo and according to the university, the City of Tonawanda has been added to the list of areas that will also be studied.

Overall, Tonawanda Coke emissions affected residents from Grand Island to the Tonawandas to the Riverside section of Buffalo. For years, gas the company burned seeped into neighborhoods causing health problems for thousands of residents, like Joyce Hogenkamp of the City of Tonawnada.

"I had multiple nodules on my thyroid, I had multiple thyroid issues because of the benzene," she said.

Hogenkamp says emissions from Tonawanda Coke led her mother to become anemic, a condition she says contributed to her mother's death eight years ago.

"To see somebody go through what she went through with the blood transfusions consistently anemic, towards the end she was very frustrated and constantly in pain," Hogenkamp said.

UB will conduct a study to find out how widespread Tonawanda Coke's actions impacted the health of more than 38,000 residents. The $11 million funding the study is fine money that a judge has directed Tonawanda Coke to pay. But, for months, the Town of Tonawanda and Grand Island have been listed as the only municipalities that researchers would test.

The City of Tonawanda was left out even though it is downwind from the plant.

"You really can't have a Tonawanda health study without including the City of Tonawanda," said city mayor Rick Davis.

Since the fall, Davis has been asking the U.S. Attorney's Office and UB whether the city will be part of the study. He hasn't gotten an answer that the city will be part of the study until now.

"Any resident that does want to participate in -- it will be afforded the opportunity to do so," Davis said.

And for residents like Hogenkamp that's good news to hear.

"Ecstatic that they responded to letters that were written by our elected officials," she said.

There's also a study that Tonawanda Coke is expected to fund to do soil testing. 2 On Your Side has learned that the City of Tonawanda will join Grand Island and the Town of Tonawanda as municipalities that will have soil tests done.

Tonawanda Coke did file an appeal to its sentence a week ago, so it's unclear when testing could start.


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