Neighbors Meet Ahead of Tonawanda Coke Sentencing

TONAWANDA, NY - Monday night, people who live near Tonawanda Coke met to talk about where the criminal case against the company stands, as well as the latest push for more environmental testing.

"I don't have anything. I have bad health. I can't breathe. I've gone through cancer. I can't even sell my house," says Tonawanda resident Thomas Ryan.

Ryan is in his 70s and has lived near Tonawanda Coke since 1977. His wife also has cancer, and he has a lot of questions about the company's upcoming court date.

"What good is a lawsuit if it don't put a dime in my pocket?" he asked prosecutors.

In two weeks, a judge will sentence Tonawanda Coke and one of its employees for violating the Clean Air Act. Prosecutors have already recommended the company be fined more than $44-million and pay nearly $13-million into a community service fund.

A new air and soil study at the cost of $700,000, proposed by the woman who did one herself in 2005 kicking off much of this case, is also part of the fine proposal.

"It's something the three of us can't do piecemealing a couple hundred dollars here and there, you know, we need, this is a big chunk of money that we need for a comprehensive study," said Jackie James Creedon.

James Creedon revealed that her latest tests found the highest levels of toxins a half mile south of the plant.

Also Monday, the U.S. Assistant Attorney who tried the case brought people up to speed.

"I can't get into the discussions about why or why not someone was in or out of a criminal case. Again, that's not why I'm here. I'm here to try to tell individuals that you might be victims. And how to go about asserting your victim rights," said Aaron Mango.

Some victims will tell their stories to the judge at the sentencing hearing. Still, many remain frustrated.

"Between them making me physically sick, they make me financially sick, too. I mean, it's mind over matter. He don't mind, and we don't matter," said Ryan.

After the meeting, members of the Department of Justice met privately with anyone who had confidential questions.

The sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19 and is open to the public.


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