The Erie Coke Plant Community Impact Update on April 16 opened with a short video produced by MenajErie Studio. If you haven’t seen it, take five minutes now. It’s powerful.
I’ve watched the video several times, but I still get emotional. There’s something uniquely moving about seeing images filmed near Erie Coke, realizing that our neighbors may be living in dangerous conditions — and feeling the full weight of what it implies about our city that we’ve allowed so many questions to go unanswered.
Those questions — and the lack of data regarding air, water, and soil pollution — were emphasized throughout the April 16 community event, hosted by Hold Erie Coke Accountable (HECA) in partnership with Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP).
It’s a catch-22, of sorts. How do you mobilize public and political pressure without data? And how do you demand data collection without public and political pressure?
One way is by organizing a “bucket brigade” to gather soil samples, like the one that galvanized action against Tonawanda Coke Corp., Erie Coke’s sister site, ordered shut by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC).
“[Soil] sampling is easy and cheap,” explained Mike Campbell, a science and biology professor at Mercyhurst University who presented on April 16. “But we don’t have the money to pay for the analysis.”
It’s hard to say how much it’ll cost, considering the numerous contaminants involved. But “that’s where the community can help,” he suggested, “or we might find some benevolent local donors who would be willing to pay for the actual analysis.” (Contact HECA directly if that’s you.)
Campbell also noted that no groundwater testing has ever been conducted at Erie Coke, according to DEP.
He pointed out that groundwater testing at 11 other U.S. coke manufacturing sites found that “all coke manufacturing facilities contaminate groundwater.”
All of them.