A New York state-based coke company has been ordered to pay a $12.5 million penalty for repeated violations of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act at its industrial facility. Tonawanda Coke Corp., which produces coke through burning coal, has also been given a five-year probation period. Its environmental manager, Mark Kamholz, will spend a year in prison, the Associated Press reported.
The company released the highly toxic chemical benzene over a period of five years and failed to properly handle hazardous sludge. In March 2013, U.S. Judge William Skretny found Tonawanda Coke and Kamholz guilty on 14 of the 19 violations, while the environmental manager was also found guilty on a count of obstruction of justice. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to spend up to $12.2 million on two environmental projects — a health study and a soil testing project.
Gregory Linsin, attorney for Tonawanda Coke, disputed the order regarding the health study, claiming that results from that could be used against the company in the pending lawsuits launched by residents of Tonawanda. Because of the 20 civil cases filed in state court, the judge declined to allow residents to speak at the latest hearing, the Associated Press reported. People living in the vicinity of the plant have accused the company of polluting the environment and claimed the plant was linked to increased rates of cancer and other diseases.