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Attorney General's Office joins crematory dispute; Neighbor targets funeral home smoke

A Town of Tonawanda homeowner says the State Attorney General's Office has become involved in his complaints against a nearby crematory.

Ronald J. Labuda of Werkley Drive says Amigone Funeral Home at Sheridan Drive and Parker Boulevard was allowed to build its crematory too close to nearby homes in 1990. He said the crematory often throws smoke over his residence, which has been in his family since 1950.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Labuda and his neighbors signed affidavits at the request of a state prosecutor, putting their complaints in writing for some sort of state action.

"They took statements, and they're going to look into the matter more," Labuda said.

Labuda said three dozen of his neighbors met Tuesday at his home with an assistant attorney from the state office, who indicated their complaints might fall under the state's public nuisance law.

It's unclear where the issue goes from here, although neighbors would like the crematory ultimately shut down.

The State Attorney General's Office couldn't offer any promises but said it would do everything in its power to help, said Nancy Varco, a Werkley Drive resident.

"I really feel optimistic now," Varco said after the meeting. "We finally have somebody who is willing to help us."

To Labuda and some other neighbors, the crematory is a nuisance, spewing particles that pose a health risk. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Division of Cemeteries have found that it largely complies with their regulations.

The funeral home has modified the incinerator and its smokestack over the years in an attempt to respond to neighbors' concerns.

Vincent J. Amigone, chief executive officer for the family-owned chain of funeral homes, said Tuesday that a state DEC inspector was again at the site that afternoon, in the latest check of his high-efficiency equipment that burns at a state-required 1,800 degrees.

While Labuda contends that plastics are burned in the facility, Amigone said the containers are always made of cardboard or wood, free of plastics.

Aside from urging state officials to act, Labuda recently went to the Erie County Legislature to open another front in his opposition to the incinerator. The County Legislature 21 years ago granted Amigone permission to open a crematory at the funeral home's headquarters. Labuda asked today's lawmakers to rescind that action.

He told them that the resolution approved in 1990 allowed a crematory because it "does not adversely affect the public health and welfare" -- a statement that cannot be proved without an an environmental impact study, he said. Further, its emissions are not "odorless and colorless," as the county required in one of its other documents.

Committee Chairman Thomas J. Mazur, D-Cheektowaga, promised a review of Labuda's arguments, made back in April. But it has not yet taken up the matter again.

News Staff Reporter Jay Rey contributed to this report.

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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