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After unease, crematory stack higher

Owners of a Town of Tonawanda funeral home hope that modifications to their cremation facility will help clear the air with backyard neighbors who have complained about unpleasant side effects.

Today, a crane will be on site at the Amigone Funeral Home on Sheridan Drive at Parker Boulevard to raise the opening in the smokestack from its current 11 feet, 2 inches above the roof's surface to 17 feet.

The work, which will cost about $8,000, is in response to recent complaints by Werkley Road residents, who say the facility produces odors and noise. Homes on the south side of Werkley are directly behind the funeral home, with a driveway and a fence between them.

Ronald J. Labuda, a Werkley resident, has spoken out against the operation at two recent Town Board meetings. "Don't we have a right to use our backyards without smelling a body burning?" he asked earlier this month.

Vincent J. Amigone, chief executive officer of the family-owned chain of 15 funeral homes, disagrees with residents' complaints. Cremations often are under way while families are attending other services at the funeral home, he said.

"People walking in from outside don't smell [anything]," Amigone said. "The families are probably 10 feet away from the machine in the building [and] don't ever complain about any noise."

After the crematory opened in 1990, there were similar complaints from residents -- to the funeral home and the state Department of Environmental Conservation -- until the funeral home increased the height of the smokestack to 15 feet.

"Putting the higher stack resolved the problem last time," said Larry B. Sitzman, a DEC regional air pollution-control engineer.

Sitzman said there were no complaints between the late 1990s and this summer, when the funeral home installed a new incinerator with a shorter stack that was recommended by the manufacturer. Since then, DEC staff members have visited the neighborhood about 10 times.

But aside from a slight metallic odor -- similar to that of new machinery in use -- during the first visit, Sitzman said, residents' claims could not be substantiated.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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