TOWN OF TONAWANDA — A crematory controlled by the Amigone Funeral Home on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda will shut down for six months, the New York State Attorney General announced on Wednesday.
The closure comes following a report released in June by the University of Buffalo that shows widespread pollution in the surrounding residential neighborhood, including human ash, while details of another air study conducted more than a year ago by the Department of Environmental Conservaiton have yet to be revealed to the public.
Residents of that neighborhood have been complaining to local and state officials for more than 20 years that the Sheridan Park Crematory has fractured their quality of life and caused rampant illness among those living in the area.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that in an agreement with his office, owners of the crematory have signed a legally binding contract to halt all activity at the location, while it continues to research how to quell the nuisances of smoke, odor and ash or otherwise move its operations entirely to another location.
While details of the DEC reports have not been released, the attorney general said he may still press charges against the operators of the facility.
”For years, emissions from the Amigone Funeral Home’s crematory have been the source of complaints in the Tonawanda community. This agreement is a victory for the families who deserve a neighborhood that is free from offensive odors, smoke and soot,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
“I am pleased that the operators of the Amigone crematory have agreed to halt its crematory operations and focus on finding a solution to the emissions that disrupted the lives of dozens of nearby families. Our office will remain vigilant to protect all New Yorkers’ right to clean, fresh air.”
The facility was launched next to the Amigone Funeral Home in August of 1991. Its purveyors have made several changes to reduce odor, soot, smoke and the release of pollutants — foremost among residents many complaints — including the extension of a smoke stack where the byproducts of cremation are released.
Schneiderman’s office agreed to investigate those complaints following the involvement of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York in the matter. The environmental advocacy group is well known for having previously brought to light massive state and federal violations at the Tonawanda Coke plant.
Erin Heaney,the coalition’s executive director, called Schneiderman’s announcment “decisive” and said it is a significant turning point that still has the potential to turn into a pubic nuisance suit through the attorney general.
”We’re really pleased that the AG has been sensitive to stopping cremations as soon as possible and that is what this order does,” Heaney said. “It means our members are going to get their summer back and it puts the burden of proof back on the company. Now Amigone has to show it will operate safely, and that’s how it should be.”
Resident of the neighborhood have said noxious fumes, smoke, ash and odor have caused them to spend most of their time indoors, where they say they could escape from the threat of burning eyes and throats.
Several people living along Werkley Road, the street abutting the crematory, have also expressed worries of widespread sickness they say can be found among residents.
“We will finally be able to enjoy our property, hold picnics, family gatherings, and open our windows and breathe fresh, clean air.” said Ron Labuda, whose home is directly behind the crematory.
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.