TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - For years, people in the Town of Tonawanda have said the air was making them sick. A state report released earlier this month seems to support their claims.
Wednesday, residents gathered to discuss their concerns. The purpose of the public meeting was to share data collected by the Clean Air Coalition of WNY, and to ask residents what they think should be the area's top health priorities.
The Clean Air Coalition of WNY has spent the last year collecting data - doing air-testing, taking pictures to document conditions, canvassing residents door-to-door. Wednesday night, it shared the findings with the community.
Exec. Director Erin Heaney said, "We heard a lot of concerns about some of the large manufacturing plants, like the coal-burning power plant, obviously Tonawanda Coke, and some of the chemical plants in the town. People are worried about their exposure to the chemicals that come from those plants."
This comes just a week after the NYS Department of Health released its own study, showing more cases of bladder cancer and leukemia in the Tonawandas, compared to the rest of the state, supporting what many people here have thought all along.
Anthony V. Mannino Foundation President Cindy Mannino said, "There's just too many rare forms of cancer in this area, starting very young. That's just not heard of."
Cheryl Viola added, "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the people I know, the young people with the rare cancers that all come from the Town of Tonawanda, are sick from the environment."
Mannino lost her son Anthony to a rare esophageal cancer when he was 21. Viola's daughter has survived two bouts of breast cancer - at 18, and again at 26.
The Clean Air Coalition asked them and other residents to look over a list of problem areas, and identify the five they think are most urgent to address.
John Knab said, "I'd like to see [the plants] put more scrubbers on their [smoke]stacks."
"My first one would be air quality, and my second one would be soil," Viola said.
Mannino stated, "Definitely need to look at the schools, the quality of the water in the schools."
Representatives from the State Department of Health are coming to Tonawanda to give a presentation and answer questions about the cancer study Tuesday, February 26 at 7 p.m. at the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center.
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