BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) –
UPDATE: State Supreme Court Judge Emilio Colaiacovo ordered a Buffalo chemical company to reduce its emissions of sulfur dioxide while at the same time allowing Medaille College to re-open its nearby sports complex.
Colaiacovo ruled earlier today that Medaille College’s lawsuit and motion supporting its request for a temporary restraining order on PVS Chemical on Lee Street contained enough facts to satisfy due process of law requirements.
Therefore, PVS Chemical must immediately reduce its emissions of sulfur dioxide below the national air quality standards, which have been a source of complaints to residents and those visiting the college’s sports complex.
Sulfur dioxide is a toxic, colorless gas with an unpleasant odor that if inhaled can cause respiratory problems. It’s especially dangerous to those with asthma.
The judge ruled that if the plant cannot reduce its emissions, then it must stop operating until it can.
A spokesman for PVS told News 4 this afternoon that it has already decreased operations and is in compliance with the standard.
PVS is to appear before the court at 10 a.m. on June 15 to argue its case.
Medaille College is suing a chemical plant in Buffalo to compel it to reduce its toxic emissions that the college deemed as a “nuisance and tortious conduct that has persisted for approximately two years.”
PVS Chemical, on Lee Street, is a sulfuric acid manufacturing plant located about a football field away from Medaille’s sports complex opened in 2019.
Medaille argues in its lawsuit that PVS releases sulfur dioxide emissions at levels four-to-eight times above what their state permit allows.
Medaille determined the pollution levels from data collected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and an independent engineer from Virginia, who had installed air monitors around the fence line of the sports complex.
An affidavit by John Black, the engineer, states that PVS exceeded the national air quality standard on approximately 42 days from January to April.
Meanwhile, sports players and neighborhood residents filed complaints with authorities about the odors, trouble breathing and other ailments they believed were caused by the plant’s emissions.
In June 2019, Medaille sought an attorney to request that PVS immediately cease and desist its sulfur dioxide emissions.
Black stated that the air monitoring data showed PVS did decrease its emissions at times following Medaille’s legal letter, “only to, later on, resume emissions with much greater SO2 concentrations.”
In May, the DEC sent PVS a cease and desist order to shutdown operations until it can reduce emissions.
In addition, the state Department of Health has asked Medaille to close the sports complex until PVS mitigates the “environmental hazards.”
“This amounts to throwing the victim in jail while the perpetrator continues on its crime spree,” the lawsuit states.
The college filed court records showing it has already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournament fees as a result of having to close.
In April 2018, PVS officials expressed concerns about the idea of having a sports complex near their industrial plant, but city leaders still approved the project.
“PVS is concerned that if the general public is invited to attend an outdoor sporting event just yards away from the fence of a fully active chemical plant, they could be upset or unhappy with industrial smells, sights and sounds. And that could lead to complaints and other undesirable issues affecting businesses on both sides of that fence,” PVS’s Chris Cancilla wrote in a statement provided to News 4 in 2018.
On Tuesday, PVS provided News 4 with another statement, contending that they are operating at less than full capacity and “are in compliance with the Department of Environmental Conservation letter.”
“PVS will continue to work with DEC to come up with an equitable solution that works for both DEC and PVS,” the company said.