Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Tonawanda Community Air Quality Study - June 2009


Air monitoring station on Grand Island
Air monitoring station in Grand Island, across the Niagara River
from the Huntley power plant

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would like to update you on the status of the Tonawanda Community Air Quality Study initiated in July 2007 to evaluate air pollutant concentrations in the industrial area of Tonawanda (location map available in PDF format in right column). Sampling at four air quality monitoring stations situated in this industrial area concluded in July 2008. Over the past year, DEC has been studying this data as well as data on wind direction. DEC also has conducted a number of facility inspections in the area.

DEC is providing this fact sheet to update the community on the study's progress and to encourage public participation in developing strategies to reduce local sources of air pollution.

Project Background

The section of Tonawanda that borders the Niagara River is one of the most heavily industrialized regions of Western New York. A number of industrial sites in the vicinity, including a coke plant and gasoline terminals, produce emissions which at certain levels may be harmful to human health and/or the environment. In response to citizen concerns about possible hazards and in order to identify the scope of the problem, DEC decided to study ambient (outdoor) air quality in more depth.

DEC applied for air study funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August 2005 after sampling conducted by the Tonawanda Clean Air Coalition in 2004 and 2005, and later by DEC, showed elevated ambient air concentrations of certain pollutants. DEC won the grant in the amount of $294,000 and contributed its own money and staff time to fully fund and conduct the study.

In 2007, DEC installed four air monitoring stations placed strategically around the Tonawanda industrial zone. The sampling sites include a station at Grand Island Boulevard near the NOCO terminal, a station at the end of Brookside Terrace Drive, a station on Two Mile Creek Road at the Sheridan Park water tower, and an upwind station located at the Beaver Island State Park golf course. For a period of one year (July 2007 through July 2008) air samples were collected at these locations every 6 days for a 24 hour period.

The year-long air monitoring allowed DEC to calculate annual average ambient air concentrations, characterize the risk from specific air pollutants in the community, and evaluate the data with wind direction information.

Next Steps

DEC will continue compliance inspections of the many air pollution sources in the area. The department is continuing to gather and investigate complaint information in the community. In addition, two air monitoring sites (Grand Island Blvd. and Brookside Terrace) are continuing to collect data.

The results of these inspections and the monitoring results will be used to make decisions about revising current NY State regulations that govern certain air pollution sources and requiring a greater degree of air pollution control at specific sources using current NY State regulations. DEC will continue to provide study information to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), which will determine the feasibility of conducting a community health study. Finally, DEC will continue our dialogue with the community and industry representatives to evaluate the achievement of our goals to improve air quality for the community.

For More Information

To view the public presentations on the Air Quality Study delivered at the March 2008, November 2008 and June 2009 public meetings, see the links in the right column. An additional presentation for the EPA Air Toxics Webinar dated June 25, 2009 is also available for viewing. The EPA Air Toxics Webinar series is a venue where the results of hazardous air pollutant monitoring studies across the United States are shared with federal, state and local environmental and public health agencies.