Today we remember the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie and the incredible sacrifices that Northwestern Pennsylvanians made during the War of 1812. Just last week I was in Erie and got a chance to see the preparations taking place to commemorate this anniversary. All this year, Erie has held a celebration worthy of the valor of Oliver Hazard Perry and the 557 patriots who followed him in to battle.
Yesterday I visited DonJon Shipbuilding in Erie with Congresswoman Dahlkemper and saw firsthand the exciting new manufacturing opportunities that are developing there. We not only viewed current construction on a tugboat, but also learned about a prototype energy efficient hydro tug that DonJon is developing with General Electric. These projects hold the potential of bringing many high paying jobs back to Erie and both the Congresswoman and I are proud to welcome DonJon to Pennsylvania and support its efforts.
Later in the day we also visited Fairview Swiss Cheese in Mercer to view an anaerobic digester. This technology converts waste products from the facility into energy to power the plant. This is exactly the type of public/private partnership that we need to see more of in Pennsylvania. It is an excellent example of the type of innovation that will help our country wean itself of its dependence on fossil fuels.
Last month, after news about possible environmental and public health threats posed by the Erie Coke Corporation plant, I requested that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conduct a public health assessment to determine if emissions from the Erie Coke Corp.’s coke-making facility has or will cause harm to the health of people living near the facility. Many Erie residents believe they have suffered a wide range of health problems, ranging from headaches to cancer, due to the plant’s emissions.
Earlier this month, ATSDR notified me that it plans to work other agencies to determine what information and monitoring data exist about the type and concentration of air contaminants that may be released from the facility or present in the air of the surrounding community. ATSDR will use this information to determine if a public health assessment is feasible and, if so, what type of assessment would provide the community with the most accurate and timely information possible to respond to its concerns.
Protecting the health of those who work at the Erie Coke plant and those who reside near the plant is a top priority. I believe all citizens are entitled to a clean, healthy environment and that any serious threats to this entitlement must be addressed.