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State bill looks to move Amigone crematory out of residential neighborhood

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The crematory contained within the Amigone Funeral Home on Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda, which in the past had gotten in trouble for clean air law violations, may soon be on the move.

  

Two state legislators are introducing a bill which would do away with combined funeral home and cremation operation exemptions, which has stood in the way of Amigone’s relocation. One co-sponsor, Assemblymember Bill Conrad, said it’s long overdue. 

“This has been a long road, the poor air quality, the nuisance odors, the particles that covered cars and lawns made it impossible for these residents to be able to enjoy their backyard," said Conrad. "It was a quality of life issue for this community, a major one” 

Despite a 90’s-era state law which seeked to separate crematories from funeral homes, Amigone was grandfathered in. This has put them in a position where moving is almost impossible. The bill's other supporter, State Senator Sean Ryan, said those barriers need to be broken down.

“There's no more dual purpose facilities allowed in New York State, they're grandfathered in. But that also made it difficult for them to leave, so even if they were willing to leave their Sheridan Drive location, they can't do it and continue their business model," said Ryan.

Tonawanda Town Board Member Shannon Patch said she wants Amigone in the town, but not in a residential area. 

“The law's intent is to not have more crematoriums. But the law is sort of messing us up here and not allowing this crematorium to move,” said Patch. “Small and local businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. I support our small and local businesses. I want them to be able to do business in our town. But this neighborhood is not appropriate.” 

Amigone has been dinged by the New York State DEC several times over the years, including a shut down of cremation services from 2012 to 2018. With more pollution control restrictions, they were allowed to resume. Neighborhood resident Ron Labuda wants it halted again until they move. 

“I'm glad they're trying to pass this law. But like I said, we would like [Amigone] to shut down [cremations] until the moratorium is held on this issue,” Labuda said. “But they shouldn't be allowed to operate right now. I mean, we have rights, and we have a right to use our property.” 

In September of 2020, pollution control devices failed on their cremation equipment, causing mostly unfiltered black soot and debris to emit from the Amigone Sheridan Drive location. After paying a $7500 fine and agreeing to the following, they were allowed to resume onsite cremations in January of this year: 

  • 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.

Even with those restrictions in place, Labuda said cremations are still effecting the health and safety of those in his neighborhood.
“About two weeks ago, I’m walking around my neighborhood and some neighbor had just moved in. She came up to me and asked me ‘Do you know yesterday, something smelled like something was burning in an oven?’,” said Labuda. “And I had to laugh and say, yes, something was burning in an oven… right over there [pointing to smokestack]. It must have been on high power or something because the odors were filtrating through the whole neighborhood. And the DEC says we just have to suffer through that.”

Legislators say Amigone has been receptive to the proposed law. The goal is for them to work with the Tonawanda Town Board to find an industrially zoned area for a new crematory. 

 

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