Tonawanda News

September 21, 2012

Town crematory hearing set

Industrial area viewed as possible location for controversial site

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A Town of Tonawanda crematory near a residential neighborhood that shut down in July after numerous complaints about pollution and sickness will be discussed during a public hearing in November. 

The Sheridan Park Crematory, which is essentially an extension of the Amigone Funeral Home along Sheridan Drive, had operated at the location for more than 20 years until a growing outcry from those living directly behind it received the backing of environmental groups and politicians, who posit the crematory left human ash scattered across the neighborhood, affecting air quality and daily life. 

For decades, residents described regular occurrences of black and gray dust strewn throughout their neighborhood, as well as smoke, noxious odors and an alarming rise in cancer and blood disease for many living near the crematory.  

In June, a University at Buffalo study confirmed the presence of human ash near the site, while another air quality study conducted in 2011 by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to be released. 

The owners of the crematory abruptly closed the facility after the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threatened a public nuisance suit. 

During Thursday’s Erie County Legislature session, approval was granted for a public hearing to discuss moving the crematory to an industrial area of the town at  at 55 Cooper Ave., a region the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York said already is riddled with air pollution issues. 

“After a lot of back and forth dialogue concerning the crematory, an agreement has been reached that appears to meet the needs of all parties involved,” said Legislator Kevin Hardwick, R-City of Tonawanda. “The bottom line is, Amigone would be able to continue to operate a crematory at their new location, while the current neighbors near Sheridan Drive will no longer have the crematory in their backyards.”

Erin Heaney, executive director of the Clean Air Coalition, said she’s spoken to residents who live near the crematory, mostly on Werkley Road, and believe the closure is a step in a right direction, while county officials say holding a hearing will assist in quelling future concerns.  

“This proposal appears to be a win-win situation, and the public hearing will help fulfill the New York State standards on the crematory proposal,” said Legislator Lynn Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda.

Yet, Heaney added, her organization will continue pressing to ensure it will not affect another residential neighborhood. 

“It shows the residents have been working address this,” she said.  

The hearing will be held at 2 p.m., Nov. 7 in the Erie County Legislative Chambers on the fourth floor of Old County Hall, 92 Franklin St., Buffalo.

Those wishing to submit written testimony for the public hearing or who have questions can contact legislature clerk Robert L. Graber at 858-8527 or send an e-mail to robert.graber@erie.gov. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.