Erie citizens will have a chance later this year to tell the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection how their lives are impacted by pollution coming from the Erie Coke Corp. plant at the foot of East Avenue.
It’s a rare opportunity for the general public to have a direct effect on the plant’s future, said Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit environmental group.
“Erie Coke is operating on an expired Title V permit and when the DEP is ready to issue a new one later this year, there will be a period of public comment and a public meeting,” Filippini said during an Erie Coke Plant Community Impact Update meeting Tuesday evening at East Middle School, 1001 Atkins St. “It’s important to be prepared. They need to know how Erie Coke has been as a neighbor. We need the strongest permit DEP can issue.”
Filippini was invited to attend the meeting by its host, the Erie-based nonprofit citizen’s group Hold Erie Coke Accountable. About 120 people attended the 90-minute event.
Members of both groups told the audience about recent issues at Erie Coke, which include:
- Several violations discovered during DEP inspections between Jan. 10 and March 27;
- An above-ground holding tank that leaked on March 19 and ruptured March 31, spilling wastewater that included ammonia and cyanide into the ground;
- A 16-page administrative order issued by the DEP on Feb. 4 requiring Erie Coke to make a number of changes to comply with state regulations and its Title V operating permit.
“We have a lot more questions than we do answers,” said Michael Campbell, an environmental scientist and one of HECA’s organizers. “We need to keep letting the DEP know that we have concerns about Erie Coke.”
Erie County Council at its regular meeting Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution in support of DEP efforts to bring Erie Coke “into strict compliance.” It also calls on the Erie County Department of Health to use all the powers at its disposal to “pressure Erie Coke to adhere to air and land pollution.”