My name is Jackie James Creedon. I am a Mom, a wife and a scientist. Unexpectedly about 10 years ago, I became an environmental activist too after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
I was looking for answers as to why I had this painful disease, because no one has any idea. I thought it had something to do with the environment where I grew up, Tonawanda, New York (just north of Buffalo). Tonawanda is home to a foundry coke plant known as Tonawanda Coke Corp.
With the help of a few neighbors, we decided to investigate the air we breathed in daily and took our own air samples with a bucket reconfigured with a few fittings, and bag, and a small vacuum.
Our tests exposed a horrible truth.
We were breathing in air laced with enormous amounts of benzene—a carcinogen—that’s linked to leukemia, cancer, and other illnesses.
I rallied fellow concerned citizens and worked with government agencies (EPA and NYS DEC), a local University, and officials to find out where the benzene was coming from and put a stop to the illegal air pollution we found that was coming from the Tonawanda Coke plant.
In the end, the company and its environmental manager were found guilty of several charges in U.S. District Court, and now face more than $200 MILLION in fines. Because of these efforts, people in Tonawanda and the surrounding area are now all breathing a bit easier.