Neighbors' stink over crematory heads to court

Mar 29, 2019

Amigone Funeral Home is headed back to State Sumpreme Court, in downtown Buffalo, Friday. People living feet away from the company's crematory, on Sheridan Drive, in Tonawanda, are suing to shut the operation down. The neighbors say foul and toxic emissions from the crematory are ruining their quality of life and their health.

Amigone Funeral Home, 2600 Sheridan Dr., Tonawanda
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

Amigone opened its crematory in the early 1990s. After years of neighbors' complaints about the operation - the State Attorney General shut the crematory down, in 2012. But Amigone fought back - got a new state permit - and reopened last year.  
    
"Once they started back up the soot reappeared. Residents complain about the gagging, eyes stinging, burns their skin - like an acid type feeling. And it's been quite the nuisance in the neighborhood for quite some time," said Attorney Kevin Stocker.

Stocker says the new permit not only required Amigone to upgrade its equipment - it also allowed Amigone to triple the number of bodies it could cremate each year to more than 2,900.
    
"I don't care what equipment has been installed they don't belong in residential neighborhoods with what they emit. Imagine having a picnic in your backyard and Aunt Matilda's ashes are on your table. Or the things that you're breathing in your home - whether they're toxins or human soot remains. Disturbing," Stocker said. 

The crematory's exhaust pipe rises over neighboring homes on Werkley Road.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

But it's not just next door neighbors who could be affected. He says a study by UB researchers shows the crematory's emissions can travel upto one mile away.
 
"We think there should have been a detailed environmental impact study done. Part of our papers put forth what we felt was Amigone's misleading application which said it was a low density residential area so they didn't have to go through stringent environmental impact testing. We think that's a falsehood," Stocker said.  

Several years ago, Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick helped pass a resolution revoking Amigone's county permit. But Hardwick says the company sued and the county lost.
    
"I think the DEC and the Attorney General, at the state level, have to once again intervene and take control of this thing. I mean, I think the ball is in their court. And I think, that they should act on behalf of the health and the welfare of the residents," Hardwick said.  

In fact, the resident's lawsuit includes the Department of Environmental Conservation, the AG, the State Crematory Board, Erie County, the Town of Tonawanda along with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and State Senator Chris Jacobs.  
    
"When you see that elected officials are taking financial contributions from toxic polluters such as Tonawanda Coke, such as Amigone's Crematory, and then they don't fight to protect their neighborhood's health - that's outrageous," Stocker said.

Elected officials declined WBFO's interview request, due to the "pending litigation." Amigone's attorney, Dennis Vacco says, the company spent more than $1 million on equipment upgrades. Vacco says the resident's "claims are false" and he's seeking to dismiss the case.
    
"The saga of this facility, on Sheridan Drive, is that the state has joined us in our motion to seek a dismissal. And while they have filed their own independent papers there's many points that we agree on including the fact that this cause of action is beyond the statute of limitations," Vacco said.

Stocker says the statute of limitations should be stricken because a proper environmental impact study was never done for the crematory's operating permit.