Tonawanda Coke Campaign: How We Made Our Air Cleaner!

Tonawanda’s 2005 Bucket Brigade

“We wanted to know what was in the air we were breathing, so a few of us started a Bucket Brigade in Tonawanda”, explained founding Clean Air Coalition of WNY (CACWNY) member Adele Henderson.

A “Bucket Brigade” is a respected method of air sampling using a “bucket”.  In short, a three minute sample of ambient air was drawn into a special bag and sent to a lab for analysis.  Adele, me and a few other neighbors ( calling ourselves “Toxic Tonawanda” and later “Clean Air Coalition”) collected three air samples in 2004 and 2005 in Tonawanda, NY.  The sample results measured benzene, a known carcinogen, at 54 µg /m3. The New York State guideline for benzene is 0.13µg/m3.  We worked with government agencies and local Universities to figure out where the benzene was coming from.  In 2009, The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation produced a report pinpointing Tonawanda Coke Corp, as the main benzene source in our community.  We then ran a direct campaign against Tonawanda Coke Corp. which resulted in real change! In 2010 through 2011, Tonawanda Coke Corp installed air pollution control equipment resulting in an 86% reduction in benzene emissions!

To hear and read national coverage of our campaign, check out: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/10/142189390/tonawanda-provides-lessons-for-fighting-toxic-air

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