TONAWANDA, NY - Congressman Brian Higgins wants a full investigation of an explosion at Tonawanda Coke that residents say shook their homes.
Last Friday, Tonawanda Coke described what took place as a small explosion and fire. The Department of Environmental Conservation called it a "significant explosion" based on their preliminary investigation.
Congressman Higgins (D-26) cited the company's past "reckless practices" as the reason for mistrust by residents and the community. In a strongly worded letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Labor Department, he asked for a "full investigation to confirm that Friday's incident did not result in any negative impact to the environment and to verify that all safety procedures were followed."
He is also disturbed by reports that emergency first responders were not allowed to enter the factory. "This is within the context of past practices that are not in keeping with this company's commitment to public safety," he said.
The Clean Air Coalition is also keeping a close eye on the situation. "We really just hope, that OSHA, the EPA, and the D.E.C. really take in account the impact that an accident like this could have on people's health and workers safety. We hope that the court case, the history of this case is not just forgotten," said Rebecca Newberry. In March, the company faces fines at a sentencing after a federal jury found Tonawanda Coke in violation of clean air laws. Fines could be as high as $200 million.
The D.E.C. has to two continuous air monitors that are in operation around the plant. They will be reviewed and the Coalition hopes the information will be released to the public