Bill Pilkington has been disgusted for years by the odors he says come from the crematory behind his Town of Tonawanda home, but he was horrified when he went to the wake of an old fishing buddy, and realized that he could have smelled his friend being cremated two days before that.
"That might have been Eddie, that upset me to no end," he said.
The Sheridan Park crematory owned by Amigone Funeral Home 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.”
The crematory received a five-year permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation last year that allowed it to reopen after installing air pollution control equipment.
But after years of working through government agencies, a group of residents decided to take matters into their own hands and is suing the crematory. Residents have said they can't enjoy their yards or keep their windows open because of periodic smells, smoke and particles from the facility’s exhaust drifting onto their property.
Attorney Kevin T. Stocker, whose law office is across the street from the Sheridan Drive crematory, said he is seeking a show cause order on behalf of residents.
"An operation such as this should not be around a residential neighborhood," Stocker said.
Amigone representatives did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Neighbors said they started smelling the familiar odor in August. They believe the pollution control devices are not being used all the time.
"It's human flesh burning. We’ve smelled it for 20 years," Pilkington said. "It's disgusting."
Stocker said he wants the crematory operations stayed while the permit is examined. He is seeking class action status and damages, and he wants the state to allow the crematory to move. Stocker also wants to involve government entities and elected officials as interested parties, and have stack emission testing equipment installed and monitored.
"It's been going on for 20 years and nobody does anything," Stocker said.
The DEC said it required significant upgrades to the cremator with add-on pollution controls to address community concerns. The upgrades include controls for mercury and acid gases and a baghouse/dust collector to control particulate emissions.
"These controls were installed prior to startup in August and are in operation during the cremation process. DEC will continue to monitor this facility to ensure public health and the environment are protected and will take enforcement action if violations are found," the statement said.
Pilkington said the emissions come at different times of the day. The Berkley Drive resident said the odor was bad one day in late summer, so he closed the windows in his house and turned on the air conditioner. Two days later, he went to the wake of his friend, and found out that he had been cremated at the crematory, although Pilkington did not know which day.
Residents also worry about toxins in the exhaust. Ronald Labuda, another Werkley Drive resident, said the odors are just as bad as they used to be, and they come and go.
"We’re not going to go away with this. We have a right to use our property," he said. "Once you smell the odor, it's disgusting, and you never want to smell it again."