Erie Coke Expert Witness Testifies About Cancer Risk Near Plant
A hearing began today before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. A judge is listening to testimony to decide whether Erie Coke can stay open while it appeals the denial of its operating permit.
The hearing came about after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last week denied Erie Coke's renewal of its operating permit after Erie Coke was cited for numerous air pollution violations. The DEP is concerned about the public's health.
The hearing began today with Erie Coke's attorneys calling an expert witness on coke plant emissions. Dr. Allen Dittenhoefer conducted a risk assessment for Erie Coke with emissions data collected in 2016. He testified that if one million people were exposed to those emissions over a 70 year period, there would be 28 cases of cancer. Whittling down those numbers to fit the population of the neighborhoods near the coke plant, Dittenhoefer said there would be fewer that one case of cancer.
Dittenhoefer said the winds usually prevailed from the west-south-west and most of the health risk is over the lake instead of over populated areas.
In a dramatic moment at the hearing, DEP Attorney Doug Moorhead showed the doctor a photograph of coke oven gas pollution near the Lampe Marina and asked him if people would get sick from exposure to that air. Dittenhoefer said his cancer calculations were based on long-term exposure. He did admit that exposure to air in that picture could cause acute health problems.
The hearing will continue all day Thursday, Friday, and Monday. Expected to testify tomorrow is Erie Coke CEO Paul Saffrin.