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[GreenYes] FW: Hg-WG: Hearing to focus on mercury from crematorium

In an earlier posting, I had noted that products put far more mercury in the environment in the US than do coal-burning power plants.
Virtually tied for the largest sources of mercury emissions from products (with switches and relays, including thermostats) is mercury from dental amalgams, and cremation is one of the issues that we have been involved in for the last 6 years as we work to reduce mercury emissions to the environment.
This issue is periodically coming up in other areas of the country as well, since crematoria are basically unregulated for these emissions in the US.
-----Original Message-----
From: mercurypolicy@no.address [mailto:mercurypolicy@no.address]
Sent: Saturday, November 17, 2007 2:19 PM
To: mwg-mercury@no.address; Hg-info@no.address
Subject: Hg-WG: Hearing to focus on mercury from crematorium

Publish Date: 11/16/2007

Hearing to focus on mercury from crematorium

A dispute between Larimer County�s largest funeral service and its new neighbors hinges on the dental health of the recently departed.

Allnutt Funeral Service, which has funeral chapels in Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley and Estes Park, has sought approval from Larimer County to build a crematorium at its newly acquired cemetery, Resthaven Memory Gardens. It would replace the crematorium the company now operates on Riverside Drive in Fort Collins.

Residents in the neighborhood nearby the cemetery at Larimer County Road 30 and U.S. 287 have protested the move, saying the crematorium will pump unhealthy amounts of mercury vapor into the air. They also say the vapor will hurt students at nearby Cottonwood Plains Elementary School and water sources such as Donath Lake.

Mercury? While the heavy metal is not a normally occurring element in the human body, enough of it can get placed there in the course of an individual�s lifetime to make it a cause for concern, residents say. That mercury gets placed there by dentists, who use an amalgam containing the metal to fill cavities in teeth.

As a vapor, it can enter the body as a neurological toxin, causing harm in both the short term and cumulatively. When it falls from the sky into water, it can get absorbed into fish and build up into potentially toxic amounts. Already, several reservoirs in Larimer County are under warnings because mercury from power plants and other sources has built up in native fish.

The Larimer County Planning Commission will hear concerns from the neighbors on Wednesday, but already a group has mobilized to protest the move. While many worry about the potential for mercury pollution, others see the crematorium hurting the property values of the area residences.

�The stigma attached to a home next to a crematorium would be the kiss of death for its value,� said neighbor Sherry Baker in a letter to planning commissioners.

Doug Ryan of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment outlined measures the crematorium operators could take to minimize the impact of both mercury and other byproducts of cremation: using automated control panels, having a dedicated gas meter for crematoriums, requiring adequate training for the operators and designing the exhaust stacks so they are at least 2 feet higher than any surrounding building.

For Allnutt Funeral Service Chief Financial Officer Mark Griffith, those conditions are not only being met but exceeded. Not only does the funeral service have the equipment called for, the operators are the only ones in the area certified by a national organization.

He sharply disagrees with other, mercury-specific recommendations, however.

A report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that if the crematorium operated at its peak capacity of more than 1,000 cremations a year, and if those cremated were at the upper end of the spectrum in terms of mercury filings, the resulting mercury pollution would exceed tolerances. Because of that, the state recommended the funeral service add mercury scrubbers, at a cost Griffith estimates at $500,000, or pull teeth from those awaiting cremation. He said the second option would create undue emotional distress on grieving families.

Griffith said the reality of the Allnutt operation pushes the mercury output levels far below the threshold for concern.

�We do 400 to 450 cremations per year,� he said, and those cremations have less than half the mercury than calculated by the state in its �worst-case scenario.�

He hopes residents and commissioners will attend Wednesday�s hearing with an open mind about what the company intends to do and not have prejudged the issue based on numbers far beyond what is currently occurring.

�I hope everyone will really listen to what we�re saying,� he said.

For longtime residents, the battle against a crematorium at the site is the second in nine years. The previous owners of the cemetery SCI Colorado Funeral Service Inc., had asked the commissioners to approve a development plan that would have allowed a crematorium. In 1998, the commissioners denied the request, citing concerns about compatibility with surrounding uses and environmental concerns.

Michael Bender, Director
Mercury Policy Project/
Zero Mercury Working Group
1420 North Street
Montpelier, VT USA 05602
Tel: +802-223-9000

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