Woman says coke plant to blame for mysterious illness

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Susan Mazur is sick. Her body is rejecting something. Her joints are fusing, rendering her unable to walk, or play with her grandkids.

Her doctors don’t know why; “like she has her own disease,” one form in her expanding medical file reads.

Susan says she knows why. She believes gas and other byproducts that spewed from Tonawanda Coke when she lived nearby in 1980s are to blame.

“Something got into my system,” she said. “And it is continually, slowly trying to destroy me.”

Also in her system as of this year, traces of lead, cadmium and mercury that are off the charts.

On Monday, the U.S. EPA announced a $12 million dollar settlement with Tonawanda Coke. $8 million dollars must be used to reduce pollution. The company admits no guilt,

The EPA credited residents for kick starting the case against the plant by testing the air around it. In 2005, Jackie James-Creedon, the founder of the Clean Air Coalition, started testing the air around the plant.

“There’s a lot of people here in Tonawanda where I live that believe that their health ailments are from the environment,” James-Creedon said. “And that’s when I started my research. It was the personal stories like Sue’s that started me on this journey.”

In the early 1980s Susan lived in a mobile home park adjacent to the River Road plant. She said conditions were poor living in the factory’s shadow.

“You’d rub your furniture, and it’d be black. You’d blow your nose and you’d have black stuff come out,” Mazur said. “And then I would get severe headaches, and those severe headaches would make me vomit and I had to lay down and I had a young child I needed to take care of.”

Medical bills continue to mount. Questions about her condition go unanswered. Susan doesn’t want money. She wants justice for others like her.

“I know that pain,” she said. “That pain is real. Every second of your life.”

The proposed consent decree between the EPA and Tonawanda Coke was filed in federal court in the Western District of New York. It’s subject to a 30-day public comment period. The consent decree is available by clicking here.

For more information about the EPA’s settlement with Tonawanda Coke and related legal documents, click here.

Representatives from Tonawanda Coke could not be reached for comment.

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