The Tonawanda Coke plant in Buffalo, New York, has succeeded in reducing its benzene emissions, but tests at one air monitor location showed it is still emitting more than 19 times the recommended guidelines, according to a report in The Buffalo News. Tests at a second location revealed benzene levels 6 times that of recommended guidelines, according to the report. Benzene is a carcinogen.
Tonawanda Coke Corporation is owned by J.D. Crane. Crane was recently fined $6 million by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for air-quality violations at Erie Coke, another coke plant located in Pennsylvania. In addition to paying the fine, the Erie plant will be required to rebuild 27 ovens that regulators found to be cracked and seeping pollutants. Erie Coke will have three years to comply.
The reduction in benzene emissions at the Tonawanda plant was seen as significant progress by regulators. The plant had previously been emitting up to 75 times the recommended amount of benzene, according to the report. A representative of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the actions had met with cooperation on the part of Tonawanda’s owner.
However, production levels at the plant have fallen about 50 percent in recent months, which could be artificially reducing the levels of benzene emission, according to the report. The executive director from the Clean Air Coalition said that they are eager to see whether benzene levels rise as production ramps back up from current levels.
Several major businesses have been effected lately by violations related to benzene emissions. Shell Chemical L.P. and Shell Chemical Yabucoa will pay a combined $3.3 million civil penalty to the U.S., Alabama and Louisiana, in addition to $200,000 to Louisiana organizations for environmental education and emergency operations as part of two Clean Air Act settlements including benzene emission violations.
Meanwhile, U.S. Steel is working on a program to use a substitute for coke that would potentially reduce emissions at its Gary, Indiana plant by 3,000 tons of carbon monoxide, 907 tons of nitrogen oxides and 706 tons of volatile organic compounds.