After fine and DEC consent order, Amigone allowed to restart Tonawanda crematory
Amigone Funeral Home will be allowed to resume cremation services at one of its facilities in the Town of Tonawanda, under a consent order issued to prevent further discharges like the one that led the Department of Environmental Conservation to shut it down last fall.
On Sept. 9, a Town of Tonawanda elected official observed black smoke rising from the stack of Amigone's crematory stack at its Sheridan Park facility on Sheridan Drive.
The explanation at the time was staff burned one large body followed by another, causing the chamber to overheat, bypassing the pollution control system and allowing direct discharge out of the stack.
DEC officials deemed Amigone had violated its air permit and operations were halted. In addition to a $7,500 fine, the DEC issued an order to Amigone detailing corrective measures. including:
- Reduce the backpressure on its exhaust system;
- Revise operating software to allow the manufacturer to initiate an emergency shutdown procedure;
- Adhere to strict revised cremation procedure guidelines, including weight and time constraints;
- Install a continuous temperature monitoring probe in its stack that records data and ensures crematory equipment is being operated according to protocol;
- Test stack emissions during the week of Jan. 11, 2021, in addition to stringent monitoring during the facility’s restart;
- Collect samples from the exhaust gas to analyze and profile its emissions during the emission testing; and
- Submit an application to modify its existing permit to incorporate the additional requirements imposed by the Consent Order.
The DEC reported Monday that Amigone had fulfilled those requirements and were allowed to restart the crematory.
Amigone was previously ordered to stop use of its crematory in 2012 due to air violations, but was allowed to restart it in 2018. Town of Tonawanda officials, State Senator Sean Ryan and State Assemblymember Bill Conrad all expressed disappointment and concern that the crematory has been cleared to resume operations once again.
“We've heard all sorts of complaints over the years, the last one just being a giant black plume of smoke. Residents have complained about ash debris," said Conrad, who previously served on the Tonawanda Town Board until assuming his new office this week. "They've replaced the operating system there and then we still have problems. This public is going to be very, very worried about reopening and rightfully so. I share their concerns.”
Conrad and Ryan are calling on state officials to host a virtual public forum to allow local residents an opportunity to learn more about the latest developments with the crematory, and forward their concerns.
"While the fine and new consent decree from the DEC are a good first step, I'm not convinced that Amigone's crematory should be able to continue to operate, with the health and safety of Tonawanda residents at risk,” said Ryan in a prepared statement. “We have been through this before, and the public has a right to be highly skeptical of what's happening at Amigone. I have questions, and the public has questions about the health impact on surrounding neighborhoods."
The DEC forwarded the following written statement to WBFO late Monday afternoon: "The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ?will rigorously monitor Sheridan Park Crematory to ensure its full compliance with applicable state rules and regulations when this facility resumes operations.
"DEC is committed to holding all regulated facilities and permittees accountable for violations of New York’s State Environmental Conservation Law and regulations, and executed a Consent Order with the crematory at the Amigone Tonawanda Chapel, holding this facility accountable for air quality violations observed in September 2020.
"DEC’s Consent Order levies penalties and requires full compliance under the State’s stringent air quality requirements to ensure public health and the environment are protected. In addition, DEC required Sheridan Park to perform corrective measures prior to resuming regular operations."