By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York is attempting to get an early start on thwarting the elimination of one of two air monitors from sites in the Tonawandas.
In response to a recent announcement by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that it is reviewing its network of more than 80 locations where monitors are found throughout the state, the coalition is trying to get 1,000 online signatures in the next three weeks in opposition to the measure, after a representative met with the community in the fall to inform them of the possibility.
Rebecca Newberry, a program director for the coalition, said 53 industrial sites exist within four square miles in the Tonawandas and because of the two monitors, located on Grand Island Boulevard off Interstate 290 and the Brookside Terrace neighborhood, the DEC was recently able to ascertain that benzene levels continue to be high in the region, though those levels could not be pinned to one specific source.
“Those monitors need to stay running,” Newberry said. “So what we’re hoping as an organization is putting enough public pressure on the DEC, the state and the governor’s office so they know they are important.”
Newberry said the two sites are crucial to accurate readings due to varying wind patterns that leave different results for both monitors despite their relative proximity, while she points to the relevance of the monitors in identifying benzene levels at Tonawanda Coke, which has been cited for federal and state illegalities.
“When you shut one down, the way the pollutants are dispersed our picture would be comprised,” she said. “We’re still concerned with the level of benzene and levels of formaldehyde. They’re still over the level and that’s why the monitors are so important. There’s possible health effects people might suffer from.”
The DEC did not respond to inquiries on Monday, while Newberry said she believes the monitor has the potential to be removed by the fall. Nonetheless, her organization will continue to push for what she views as an important marker in a region that has had no shortage of environmental catastrophes.
“We learned in the past that the more noise we make the more folks listen,” she said. “We want to continue in that spirit.”
Newberry said interested parties can sign the petition at www.cacwny.org.