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Attorney General Schneiderman sues to prevent reopening of Amigone Funeral Home crematory over 'persistent environmental violations'

by jmaloni

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Wed, Oct 2nd 2013 01:30 pm

A.G.'s suit seeks to block operation of crematory in residential neighborhood

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens announced a lawsuit Tuesday to prevent Amigone Funeral Home Inc. from reopening its crematory in a residential neighborhood in the Town of Tonawanda. The crematory, which the A.G.'s camp said has a long history of generating offensive odors, soot, and excessive noise into the neighborhood, has been the source of persistent community complaints. While a July 2012 agreement with Schneiderman's office resulted in Amigone suspending operations at the crematory, the funeral home has recently signaled its intention to restart operations.

"The Amigone crematory has cast a shadow over this Tonawanda community for too long," Schneiderman said. "The crematory's offensive nuisance emissions have long plagued residents, interfering with such basic pleasures as opening windows and enjoying backyards. This lawsuit will reassure this community that the Amigone crematory will never again pollute their air and disrupt their lives. With this action, my office is standing with the residents of Tonawanda to protect their right to enjoy clean, fresh air."

Martens said, "The DEC referred this matter to the attorney general for enforcement when it became clear that, despite Amigone's efforts, the crematory was causing a continuing violation of DEC laws and regulations. The attorney general's office worked closely with DEC staff to bring this action, and I congratulate their efforts to block the crematory from further impacting the neighboring community."

The attorney general's lawsuit, which was filed in Erie County Supreme Court, charges that Amigone is unable to operate the crematory without violating state air pollution laws and creating a nuisance for nearby residents. The suit seeks to permanently block Amigone's operation of the crematory at its Sheridan Drive property. The suit also seeks monetary penalties against Amigone for repeatedly violating state air pollution and other laws.

The Amigone crematory, which began operations in August 1991, is located adjacent to a quiet residential neighborhood. From the start, residents on and near Werkley Road have complained about the crematory's odors, soot and excessive noise. Conditions worsened when the facility's incinerator was replaced in July 2009. Residents have documented dark smoke emissions, denoting the release of particulates from cremation operations into the neighborhood, and DEC put the crematory on notice of serious violation of limits on emissions of smoke in May 2012.

Last July, Schneiderman reached an agreement with Amigone that required closure of the facility for a six-month period while Amigone sought approval from the New York State Cemetery Board to relocate its crematory operation. The agreement further provided that if Amigone was unsuccessful in obtaining approval to relocate and wished to reopen during the six-month period, the company would need to retain a third-party expert to develop recommendations for operational changes that would address residents' concerns about odors, soot, smoke and noise. 

The New York State Cemetery Board last year denied Amigone's petition to relocate the crematory, and that determination was upheld in State Supreme Court this April. Although Amigone has taken public steps to recommence operations at its current site, it has provided no information regarding retaining an expert or developing any engineering plans to eliminate the crematory's objectionable and illegal emissions. 

Rebecca Newberry, community organizer with The Clean Air Coalition of W.N.Y., said, "The Clean Air Coalition applauds Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his team in Buffalo for taking action to prevent the Amigone crematory from reopening. For years, the crematory's neighbors were forced to live with the facility's offensive odors, dark smoke and loud noise. We thank the AG's office for defending the quality of life of these families."

Schneiderman thanked the Department of Environmental Conservation for its efforts in this matter.

The case is being handled by assistant attorneys general Jane Cameron and Michael Myers and staff scientist Jennifer Nalbone, under the supervision of Chief Scientist Alan Belensz, Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel. DEC Region 9 Attorney Maureen Brady and Environmental Engineers Alfred Carlacci and Alan Zylinski assisted in the case.

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