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Amigone crematory in Tonawanda could reopen after upgrades

 A crematory at a Town of Tonawanda funeral home that closed five years ago because of complaints about soot and odors could reopen after upgrades are completed to the facility.

Despite neighbors' protests, Amigone Sheridan Park Funeral Home has received a 5-year permit to operate the crematory from the Department of Environmental Conservation, and state Supreme Court Justice E. Jeannette Ogden ruled Aug. 7 that the crematory can reopen.

It could take the funeral home about six months to make required upgrades to the crematory before it reopens, according to the DEC.

The crematory at 2600 Sheridan Drive will be able to cremate 2,920 bodies a year, according to its permit application, but will "likely not exceed 1,500 per year."

Sheridan Park Inc., which owns the funeral home, indicated in its permit application that the funeral home will use its existing incinerator, but it will be completely refurbished and air pollution control equipment will be added.

The DEC in January had sought a temporary restraining order to prevent Amigone from resuming operations of its Tonawanda crematory, but Justice John A. Curran denied that request.

The DEC said in a statement that it has required significant upgrades to the crematory with add-on pollution controls, including controls for mercury and acid gases and a system to control particulate emissions.

"The controls are beyond that required by regulation and should address the issues raised by the community, including particulate fallout and odors," the DEC said in its statement.

Although the crematory is not required to pass an inspection before it resumes operations, the DEC said it will conduct an inspection before and after the startup.

The crematory began operations in 1991, but it shut down in 2012, after the state Attorney General's Office sued the funeral home and accused it of allowing "viable emissions" into the atmosphere which "unreasonably interfered with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property." In 2013,  State Supreme Court Justice Henry Nowak ordered  the crematorium operations to be suspended indefinitely. In 2016 when Amigone tried to reopen, Justice Ogden ruled that Amigone could not reopen until it obtained a state facility permit from the DEC and DEC finds the crematory "in compliance with air quality permit requirements" and "it makes necessary upgrades."

Resident Neal Hodgson said he opposes the funeral home reopening its crematory and has mobilized other neighbors, many of them members of the Clean Air Coalition. The group has also asked for help from local leaders.

"It should never have been there in the first place," said Hodgson.

The group has set up a Facebook site – "Stop Amigone Crematory – and it will hold a meeting at 7 p.m., Sept. 12 at St. Bartholomew's Church, 2368 Eggert Road.

But could it be too late?

Hodgson said the residents were unaware that Amigone had the ability to open up again and are upset that the DEC, which approved the permit for the crematory June 26, didn't keep residents in the loop.

The state attorney general's office, which has sued Amigone twice in the past five years to stop it from reopening, is now taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"For over five years, the office has worked to ensure that the air emissions of the Amigone facility would not be a nuisance in this community. We have secured requirements significantly limiting pollution from Amigone which are far more stringent than what is required by law, and we will continue to monitor the facility's performance closely," said Doug Cohen, a spokesman for Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Hodgson said neighbors will be keeping a close eye on the facility and will document what they see.

"We will shut them down again," he predicted.

Hodgson said neighbors plan to petition the town to limit the crematory's hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays only.

"We don't want his hours of operation to be 24/7," said Hodgson. "We want them closed on the weekends so we don't have to smell that smell."

Amigone Funeral Home declined to comment about the controversy.

Town Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger said the crematory poses a quality of life issue for nearby residents.  He said the board supports the residents, but has little power to prevent the crematory from reopening.

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