No cause for concern: Crematory shouldn’t worry residents, says association head

By 
Robert Cox

A Perryville business seeking a special-use permit from the city to add a crematory facility on its property has drawn several complaints from residents who live near the proposed site, but state officials and other crematory operators say there should be no cause for concern.
“It’s mostly a public perception thing,” said Don Otto, executive director and general counsel of the Missouri Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association. “There’s no safety concern. There’s not an odor concern. There’s not a dangerous chemical concern. It just boils down to people just don’t like the idea of it.”
The City of Perryville’s Planning & Zoning Commission decided against issuing a permit to Brewer Monument after hearing from more than a dozen residents at a meeting held late last month, citing a lack of knowledge about the safety concerns brought up by the public.
Tim and Angie Brewer, owners of Brewer Monument, located at 111 S. West St. in Perryville — across the street from Ford & Young Funeral Home, the only funeral home in Perry County — attended the meeting armed with safety reports and a letter from the manufacturer of the unit they wish to install in an unused building on their property, but it wasn’t enough to sway the commission.
“We can’t approve something if we don’t know if it’s safe,” said commission chairman Ron Courtois after the meeting. “The fact that there could be exhaust issues or malfunctions that could affect the citizens in general is what affected our decision. If there’s any issue, as far as health concerns, we don’t know what those are. We’re not trained in those types of situations. Until you know what it is, you can’t say yes.”
Tim Brewer said that safety shouldn’t be a concern.
“I wouldn’t be putting it here if I didn’t think it was completely safe,” Brewer said, pointing out that it would be his family and employees who would be in closest proximity. “I mean, because this unit is state-of-the-art. It is completely self-contained. Nothing goes into the ground. The only emission port is the one designed at the top through the roof specific to that device, and anything that goes up the flue is going through the filters and it has an afterburner, so it holds it for another second or two longer and burns it again before it even goes out. There’s nothing hardly that goes ever out.”
The city’s Board of Aldermen will be able to hear firsthand from the Brewers and any concerned citizens during a public meeting to be held during the board’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Perryville City Hall.

Jan. 30, 2020:
P&Z passes on crematory permit

For some, the discussion has already started.
In response to an article detailing the commission’s decision published in the Jan. 30, 2020, edition of the Republic-Monitor, local residents responded on the newspaper’s Facebook page, showing support and opposition for the Brewers’ plan.
“There are lots of land available out of town,” wrote Judith Hopfer of Perryville. “Let’s keep in mind how very close our Lutheran school is to your property, daycare within 2 blocks. I think it would be bad for everyone living close to this operation. If needed you can send to Jackson.”
Alissa McGraw, meanwhile, called it “a great idea.”
“It is not going to do anything to harm the Lutheran school nor the daycare close to it,” McGraw wrote. “The operators will know what they are doing and stand by the guidelines that are needed to run such business. This will help the ones who are unable to pay for full funeral costs by making it a cheaper alternative and a way to still say goodbye to deceased loved ones.”
Otto backed Brewer’s statement on safety, telling the Republic-Monitor on Monday that crematories are heavily regulated by the state and the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted several studies regarding emissions from cremation facilities, finding nothing harmful.
“Any crematory facility has to be approved by the Department of Natural Resources,” Otto said. “There’s a whole list of regulations that have to be followed.”
For example, Otto said, there can be no visible smoke from the crematory.
“That doesn’t happen,” he said. “The EPA has done tests on a number of occasions to see if there’s any contamination in the air surrounding a crematory, and one called the Minnesota study — they were testing for things like mercury and other chemicals that might be released — showed that the air quality right next to the crematorium was better than the ambient sample that they used for comparison.”
According to data provided by the Missouri Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, there are nearly 100 cremation facilities active in Missouri.
Those closest to Perry County include McCombs Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Jackson, Cape Wilbert Vault in Jackson, Crain Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Cape Girardeau, Bollinger County Crematory in Marble Hill, the Patriot Corporation in Park Hills, Hillview Memorial Crematory in Farmington and Jefferson County Cremation Services in Pevely.
Mike Liley of Liley Funeral Homes, which owns the Bollinger County Crematory on Hwy. 51, said Tuesday that his crematory handled approximately 75 cremations last year, many coming from outside the county.
“We’ve picked up from Perryville, Ste. Genevieve, Sikeston, Malden, Dexter, Poplar Bluff — I went out to Puxico the other night,” Liley said. “We’re doing them outside of our county more than we are in our county.”
The cost of cremation can range anywhere from $1,000 to more than $3,000, depending on transportation costs, outsourcing or any of a number of other factors. Having a facility in Perryville would reduce costs for local families who choose cremation and keep that money in the county.
““Do we believe it’s going to help Perry County?” asked Angie Brewer. “The business is going out of Perry County right now and it’s going to continue at a greater rate.”
Liley’s facility is located in Bollinger County Memorial Park Cemetery, which is owned by the funeral home.
“We have a crematory onsite,” Liley said. “It’s actually in our cemetery. But yes, it’s within two miles of our funeral home here. We were going to put it in the city — in fact, in the building that I’m in, our cremation arrangement office. We didn’t run into any opposition. We just decided, you know, it’s stupid, we’ve got our own cemetery, two miles outside of town in the county, so we just put it in our cemetery. We did not have any opposition to it.”
That’s not always the case.
“I know the ones that are over in Jackson and Cape, they did have a little opposition to them because they’re around subdivisions and people have concerns with crematories,” Liley said.
Otto said all crematoriums in the state are inspected regularly.
“Both the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and the DNR can come in at any time and look at them,” Otto said. “There are so many rules on what you have to do. It’s very highly regulated.”
Otto also addressed some common misconceptions about the cremation process.
“All cremation units — retorts, as they call them — operate pretty well in a similar way,” Otto said. “They’re all double chambered. People always think that fire touches the body — that doesn’t happen. It’s just the hot air that takes care of the remains, and once it’s reduced to a vapor, it goes through a number of different filters and scrubbing devices so that nothing that comes out of the exhaust stack has any of the contaminants or anything that the EPA was concerned about checking on.”
Missouri statutes contain three pages of regulations regarding crematoriums and the requirements for operation and maintenance. There are no restrictions made on location, other than requiring the rotorts to be placed in a secure building.

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