Erie County Council members will likely join their counterparts in the city by condemning the Erie Coke Corp. for several recent environmental violations.
Councilman Kyle Foust asked at a finance committee meeting on Thursday for support for a resolution that would mirror one approved unanimously by Erie City Council on April 3.
“Erie Coke certainly needs to be held accountable,” Foust said. “We can’t have an employer creating environmental and therefore possibly a health hazard in our own backyard. The time has come that this company needs to be put on notice and have its feet held to the fire that they need to clean up or they may not be welcome here. No matter how many jobs they have they cannot create and persist with health and environmental hazards.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection claimed in a letter to Erie Coke officials Monday that several times between Jan. 10 and March 27 the company violated its operating permit. DEP inspectors said they have discovered air-contamination issues, leaks, control-equipment issues and coke contaminants at its facility at the foot of East Avenue in the city.
Erie Coke, which produces a fuel with a high carbon content that is used in the steel-making process, is also dealing with other regulatory issues, including a leaking wastewater tank reported at the plant in March.
The DEP’s letter to Erie Coke was not a punitive order nor a final action; however, it has reserved the right to additional enforcement actions based on the new violations, according to the letter.
Foust was quick to find support for his proposed resolution, which County Council is likely to vote on when it holds its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“This is not something new,” Councilwoman Carol Loll said of Erie Coke’s recent DEP violations. “This has been going on for a long time. In my mind they are somewhat defiant of the fact they have been told repeatedly that you need to do something about the quality of the work you’re doing and they haven’t corrected this.”
Councilman Andre Horton said the plant has been an issue for decades.
“I wish there was something stronger we could do,” he said.