A controversial crematorium at 2600 Sherdian Drive in the Town of Tonawanda has been shuttered for the the next six months.
State Attorney General Erie Schneiderman announced an agreement with Sheridan Park, the operators of the Amigone Funeral Home crematory. WBFO & AM-970's Eileen Buckley talked with residents and the CEO of Amigone
Under an agreement with State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Sheridan Park, operators of the Amigone crematory will have to find solutions to eliminate odors, smoke, and particles or relocate to another site.
Rebecca Newberry with the Clean Air Coalition has been lead organizer for the Amigone campaign. She says Tonawanda residents are elated after fighting for changes for years.
"We got a call from one of our members today who literally broke down in tears because she can finally enjoy her backyard, which she hasn't been able to enjoy in 20 years because of the odors," said Newberry.
Residents and coalition members held a news conference July 9, calling for Schneiderman to intervene.
Newberry says residents have expressed concern about the possible emission of mercury and lead from the facility, which can have significant health effects.
The Attorney General’s agreement first commits Sheridan Park to pursue the relocation of their crematory operations to a more suitable site, including securing any necessary state or local approvals
Amigone ceased operations this past Sunday. The agreement preserves the right of the Attorney General to take legal action if the emissions have not been resolved.
The agreement requires Sheridan Park to cease the operation of its Tonawanda crematory effective July 22. Further, the corporation is required to keep the crematory's operations halted while it actively pursues solutions to eliminating the emissions that have been the subject of community complaints. Specifically:
- Sheridan Park is first required to pursue relocating their crematory operations to a more suitable site, including securing any necessary state or local approvals; and
- If no such permission is granted, Sheridan Park is then required to retain a technical expert with experience in operating crematories to make recommendations on engineering solutions to end problematic emissions. The agreement requires that such recommendation be submitted to Attorney General Schneiderman and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for review.
WBFO & AM-970 News met with two residents who live on Werkley Road in Tonawanda, behind the crematory.
"Victory, but we haven't won the war yet," said Bill Pilkinton. He has lived on Werkley Road in the Town of Tonawanda for more than 40-years.
For more than 20-years Pilkinton and other residents say the smell and smoke from the crematory is disruptive to their lives and worry about possible health effects.
"Could be two to three times a day," all of a sudden you get a whifff of that smell," said Pilkinton.
Vincent Amigone, CEO of Amigone Funeral Homes, said he met with the Attorney General's office last week and then decided to voluntarily halt cremation process at the Sheridan Drive facility.
Amigone is now reviewing options for the future of the crematory.
"The options we have right now is to stay, the other option is to relocate, and that would be up to not just the Attorney General, but the New York State Cemetery board and probably the town board itself," said Amigone
The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York has been helping residents to convince the state to shut down the crematory. Recently it revealed that the DEC and University at Buffalo discovered crematory particles in the neighborhood from the smokestack on Sheridan Drive.
"I don't know if you've ever smelled human flesh burning, it's not pleasant," said Ron LaBuda. He lives directly behind that smokestack on Werkley.
"You can't sit in your back yard because you never know when the odors are going to come or when the black smoke is going to come," said LaBuda.
Amigone said has done everything that it can to make changes.
The state agreement preserves the right of the Attorney General to "take legal action" if it cannot resolve emissions issues.
Residents say their fight will not end until the crematory is removed.
"Move that crematory out of here," said LaBuda. "Get it out of our neighborhood and do the right thing."