NY AG sues Amigone to stop crematory

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office filed a lawsuit Tuesday to prevent the Amigone Funeral Home from reopening its crematory in the Sheridan Park area of the Town of Tonawanda.

For years, nearby residents have complained about the offensive odors, noise and pollution emitted from the crematory.

With the help of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, residents took their complaints to the Department of Environmental Conservation and the attorney general’s office.

In July 2012, the attorney general’s office successfully convinced the crematory to shut down its operations. However, a year later, Amigone announced plans to reopen the facility.

“The Amigone crematory has cast a shadow over this Tonawanda community for too long,” Attorney General Schneiderman said in a prepared statement. “The crematory’s offensive nuisance emissions have long plagued residents, interfering with such basic pleasures as opening windows and enjoying backyards.”

The lawsuit is filed in the Erie County Supreme Court. Justice Diane Y. Devlin will hear the case. A hearing is set for Oct. 31. The Knoer Group law firm is representing the crematory, and did not return a message seeking comment.

“For years, the crematory’s neighbors were forced to live with the facility’s offensive odors, dark smoke and loud noise. We thank the AG’s office for defending the quality of life of these families,” said Rebecca Newberry, a community organizer for The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement that the crematory was in violation of state air pollution laws and regulations. The lawsuit seeks an injunction on the crematory to prevent it from reopening in the neighborhood and financial penalties for repeated violations of air pollution regulations.

The crematory opened in 1991. Not long after, residents near Werkley Road complained about the odor, soot and noise. According to the attorney general’s office, the crematory replaced an incinerator in July 2009 that made the problems even worse. Three years later, the DEC filed notices against the crematory for serious air pollution violations.

Amigone unsuccessfully tried to relocate its crematory. Last year’s agreement with the attorney general’s office required that if Amigone was unsuccessful in relocating, the owners would have to hire an expert to recommend ways the crematory could reduce the pollution, noise and odors.