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What's next for the former Tonawanda Coke site?

It will still take years to remediate the site, but plans are already getting drafted for the future at the former Tonawanda Coke site

TONAWANDA, N.Y. — As implosions go, the smokestack implosion at the former Tonawanda Coke facility went off as planned. 

"If I can borrow a phrase from 'Oklahoma,' the musical 'oh, what a beautiful morning,'" said Joe Emminger, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor. 

But now the focus is on remediation and future plans of the 80+ acre site in the Town of Tonawanda. 

The big first step is figuring out what is actually in the soil and groundwater on the site, and the process hasn't been cheap since remediation began in October 2019. 

"There's been about $13 million spent to date," said Jon Williams, CEO of OSC, Inc. 

OSC, Inc has been overseeing the remediation since 2019 and coordinated Saturday morning's implosion. 

Since remediation began, 4,000 tons of asbestos, chemicals and other so-called universal waste have been removed from the former Tonawanda Coke site. 

"We are now doing a lot of investigation in the ground to determine exactly what is below the surface, and how we can develop a plan to clean that up," Williams said. 

OSC will provide a report to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sometime this fall. The report paints a better picture as to the timeline of site remediation. 

"This is a 2025 timeline," Williams said. "It's hard to predict how that happens, we have the data and the DEC is just getting that information?"

Beyond the remediation, an outline for the site has been laid out by Riverview Innovation and Technology Campus. RITC is a joint remediation and development venture between Williams and Honeywell.

The likely project that will call RITC home is a data center.  

"So this property is unique in that it's a large site," said John Yensan, president of OSC, Inc. "It's adjacent to some high voltage power where we can get a high capacity electrical interconnect to power a data center or something that consumes a lot of power.

The direct connection to the river for cooling water is also ideal for a data center. 

But there may be other options. Western New Yorkers may remember Joe Emminger pitching the Tonawanda Coke site as a potential home for a Buffalo Bills stadium back in October 2018. 

"What about the new Bills Stadium? Okay, I throw that out for consideration at this point."

2 On Your Side asked Emminger about that again today and after a chuckle, he said he'd be welcome to a conversation with the Bills or county. 

Emminger said it's a conversation worth having with RITC, the Bills, and the county because there's enough land to go around at the brownfield and superfund site. 

Regardless, remediation and environmental testing will be the biggest thing happening at the former Tonawanda Coke site for years to come. 

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