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
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
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
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