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State halts cremations at Amigone Sheridan Park facility, cites violations

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After neighbors documented a thick plume of black smoke rising from Amigone Funeral Home's crematory on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda last week, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has cited the facility for two violations of its air quality permit.

"Sheridan Park is not performing cremations at this time and should not resume cremations pending DEC’s review of Sheridan Park’s internal report on last Wednesday’s incident as well as the full and complete demonstration that Sheridan Park is employing DEC-required and -approved corrective measures,' the DEC said in a prepared statement.

The statement did not specify the violations, other than to say that "the noxious release of thick black smoke into the environment and surrounding community" were in violation of the facility's state permit.

The investigation is ongoing, the agency said.

The crematory was shut down in 2012 and in 2014 was blocked from reopening by Erie County, but a judge ruled in 2016 it could reopen. The funeral home met with state officials to ensure it would meet updated emission standards.

Neighbors complain that they've been subjected to exposure to foul odors and ashes they suspect are human remains. 

Last week's plume was recorded by several neighbors and Tonawanda Councilmember Shannon Patch shared an image of it on social media.

"It was just horrible. Human flesh is not pleasant," neighbor Ron Labuda said last week at a news conference urging state action. "Can you imagine it, smelling human flesh? And also, people driving down Sheridan Drive or anywhere have got somebody's relative on their car, or when you walk by. Think about that, that's what was coming out - remains."

The agency's statement did not elaborate on what may have caused the plume last week, but Joseph Emminger, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor, said the DEC told him at the time that it was a result of the  cremation chamber overheating after two large bodies were burned in succession. Because of the excessively high temperature, the pollution control system was bypassed, resulting in direct discharge out of the stack, he said.