Tonawanda Coke settles civil case for $12M

Federal prosecutors and environmental regulators hailed Monday’s $12 million civil settlement with Tonawanda Coke as a “tremendous environmental victory.”

The company will spend $8 million on pollution control upgrades at its century-old plant on River Road. Tonawanda Coke also will hire a third party environmental expert to audit its operations for additional safety and environmental improvements.

In addition, the state and federal governments collect $2.75 million in penalties.

Another $1.3 million is earmarked for environmental projects to benefit residents of Tonawanda. The only project formally announced Monday was $357,000 to the nonprofit Ducks Unlimited to acquire and preserve a wetland within 30 miles of the Niagara River watershed.

The state Attorney General’s office and the Department of Environmental Conservation will decide how the remaining $1 million is spent.

Judith Enck, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator for Region 2, said the plant upgrades and  selection of community projects should be wrapped up within two years.

“I think Tonawanda Coke has a very sad history in this community and we are confident that they are turning the page,” Enck said.

The civil settlement is in addition to the $25 million in penalties that a federal jury ordered Tonawanda Coke to pay in March 2014.

In 2013, Tonawanda Coke and Mark L. Kamholz, its environmental controls manager, were convicted of 14 violations of federal environmental laws. Kamholz was sentenced to a year in jail, community service and a $20,000 fine.