Residents outraged, DEC investigating black smoke at Tonawanda crematory

Local News

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) –Tonawanda neighbors are on alert and the DEC is investigating after many people saw thick, black smoke coming from the Sheridan Park crematory at the Amigone Funeral Home on Wednesday.

“Everyone knows something’s wrong when that’s occurring,” said Councilman Bill Conrad, who, along with Town Board members, is seeking answers.

The return of smoke and smell is something residents fought for years to get rid of. They endured bad-smelling smoke permeating their neighborhood and leaving soot on their home.

Ron Lavuda’s house is very close to this smoke stack. He’s concerned about the long-term health effects.

“Can you imagine what we’ve been going through all these years, inhaling human remains? I think it’s ridiculous, and I think the DEC should follow through with what they promised, and the attorney general: Shut him down,” Lavuda said.

The crematory, operated by Amigone, was shut down several years ago, but the facility got a permit to reopen in 2017, and did so in 2018 after putting in air pollution controls.

“This is supposed to be a million dollar equipment. It must be a piece of junk, or he’s not operating it properly, because it’s not supposed to do what it’s doing,” Lavuda said.

Town officials say this prompted an immediate DEC investigation.

“[The DEC] went in and told us that they had basically been burning too large and too many bodies, and it bypassed the safety mechanism and basically put that smoke out without any filtering, and that is a red alert,” Conrad said.

The DEC did not confirm the back-to-back burning of large bodies that both Conrad and town supervisor Joe Emminger described to News 4, but the agency said in a statement the agency takes air quality concerns very seriously and that the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, residents have been fed up for at least two decades.

“Another time on a Sunday, it was so bad I thought someone’s house was burning down, so it’s been bad other times, but yesterday was one of the real bad ones,” said resident Bill Pilkington. “Just the fact that we can’t go back there and enjoy our backyard because the smell is so bad. You know, people say ‘what’s it smell like?’ It smells like a human body burning. What else can I tell you? It’s a bad smell.”

Read the Department of Environmental Conservation’s full statement:

DEC takes the public’s concerns about air quality very seriously. DEC investigates complaints and assures compliance is met under all state air quality requirements to ensure the public’s health and the environment are fully protected. On Wednesday, DEC immediately responded to public reports of black smoke emanating from the Sheridan Park Crematory smokestack at Amigone Tonawanda Chapel at 2600 Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda. The smoke was reported at approximately noon and lasted for approximately one hour. DEC’s investigation into the cause of the smoke is ongoing. Additional information will be provided when it is available.  

Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.

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