DRB Takes Crematorium Decision Behind Closed Doors

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Thursday July 28, 2011

Rankled neighbors continued to express disfavor over a proposed crematorium in South Burlington’s Meadowlands Industrial Park at a meeting of the Development Review Board (DRB) on July 19. After an hour of deliberations and public comment, the board told business-owner Stephen Gregory they’d render a decision in a private session within forty-five days.

A proposal for the crematory first surfaced at a May 17 DRB meeting, when Krebs and Lansing engineer Scott Homsted sought to allay the fears of some thirty concerned residents in attendance. Citing a need to better understand emissions, the DRB invoked a technical review, in which the city contracts an independent assessment at the applicant’s expense.

In a report submitted to the city on July 15, Stantec Consulting Engineers of Pennsylvania complied data on the crematory’s proposed operating system, a “Power-Pak II” manufactured by Matthews International. The study found that this particular model, used in ten crematories around Vermont including South Burlington’s Allen Drive facility, “will be in compliance with the visible emission and pollutant discharge requirement of the Vermont Air Pollution Control Division.”

Assuming the system is maintained and operated properly, continued the report, the crematory “can be operated in compliance with ... the South Burlington Land Development Regulations.” Gregory informed the DRB that he would be the operator and would undergo training with Matthews International.

For some members of the DRB, compliance with Vermont’s air pollution regulations wasn’t enough. Joe Randazzo noted that the EPA and the State of Vermont don’t regulate mercury, which is dispersed into the air when dental amalgam in fillings is burned. “There’s additional data,” he said, “showing that mercury does build up from the cremation process.” Board member Tim Barritt had to push Homsted three times for acknowledgment that mercury at any level will be released from the facility.

“The data on mercury is sort of incomplete at this time,” Homsted told the board. “The EPA and the Air Pollution Control Division doesn’t view this as a problem. Until such time as someone implements a standard for this, it’s an impossible target to meet.”

The Stantec report found that no state has been successful in passing legislation for mercury emissions from crematories. Localities have adopted two methods to redress mercury emissions: installation of a reputedly highly expensive mercury scrubber—only one crematorium in the U.S. has a “pollution control device on the exhaust stack,” states Stantec—or removal of the dental amalgam before cremation.

Board chair Mark Behr asked Gregory if we would consider removing the amalgam prior to a cremation.

“Removing teeth is not really standard practice for us,” said Gregory. He’d remove fillings “if at some point it does become a concern, and the Air Pollution Control Division mandates it.”

A small contingent of residents expressed worry about the proposed crematorium, citing devalued property, Holocaust associations and increased emissions. “We moved up here for the air quality,” said one member of the audience.

Another, a nearby landowner, was more adamant in his protest: “I plan to put my house up for sale.”

Although the DRB will factor emissions into its decision, home devaluation and Holocaust concerns are outside the board’s purview, said Behr. After an hour of deliberation, the board voted to close the public hearing and reconvene at 6:30 p.m. on August 3 for a closed-door deliberative session to render a decision. They must provide an approval or denial with in forty-five days.

SOURCE: Eric Blokland, Correspondent