File photo of Tonawanda Coke plant
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now ordering Tonawanda Coke to make a series of improvements to reduce water and air pollution at its River Road plant or face sanctions and other enforcement actions by the state and federal governments.
The EPA charges the firm violated the Clean Air Act with uncontrolled releases of ammonia and benzene. The agency says excessive exposure to benzene is known to cause cancer.
Government officials also say the company has failed to properly handle coal tar sludge and maintain pipes and storage tanks which can leak polluted runoff into the Niagara River.
The EPA says it has started discussions with plant representatives about compliance but did say company officials have been slow to respond in the past. There is ongoing air monitoring around the plant. They would not specify what actions would be taken if plant officials fail to meet compliance.
Nearby residents on Grand Island claim illnesses have been linked to the plant's operation.
Tonawanda Coke's environmental control manager, Mark Kamholz, was arrested in December on criminal charges tied to alleged violations of federal environmental law. But the EPA says these orders are separate from that case.
A plant spokesperson said there was no comment to this latest round of orders from the EPA.