Neighbors voice opinion on proposed Wauwatosa crematorium

NOW: Neighbors voice opinion on proposed Wauwatosa crematorium

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Wauwatosa cemetery is looking to expand, but some neighbors have concerns.

Pinelawn Memorial Park wants to build a crematorium, and a public hearing was held on January 16th.

"I actually do speak as a scientist..." said David Bazett-Jones at the public hearing.

Bazett-Jones was one of three people that voiced their opinion at the hearing against a crematorium in Wauwatosa, but 22 of his neighbors sent emails with their concerns or opposition.

Three Pinelawn employees voiced their support at the meeting, and 10 other people registered being in favor of the crematorium -- those 10 people did not want to speak.

Some of the main concerns involved worry about the chemicals that may end up in the air. Some people also voiced concern about property value, and odors.

The public hearing minutes include the emails of concern, see below.

Bazett-Jones says he went into his research about crematoriums with an open mind, but when he read online that mercury could be emitted, he formed an opinion.

"As a father of three young kids, that was really kind of worrisome to me," said Bazett-Jones. He says he looked at research studies.

Pinelawn Memorial Park says the information Bazett-Jones and the other speakers presented is false.

"All three of those neighbors came in with facts that they had done basic Google searches on the environmental impact of crematories, and a lot of that information is just not factual as with any Google search," said Christine Toson Hentges, President of Pinelawn Memorial Park.

Hentges says the crematorium would be on their 115-acre property, and that creates a buffer between the cremation and residents.

"There's lots of cremations and crematories in the areas where neighborhoods are really close by and people don't even recognize that there's a cremation taking place," said Hentges.

At the public hearing, Hentges brought examples of local crematoriums close to residential and populated areas.

Matthews' Environmental Solutions, the company providing the crematory equipment says even though the EPA does not set emissions standards for a crematorium, the machine Pinelawn will purchase tests well below any recommended emission rates.

The FAQ section of Pinelawn's website includes a 99-page document that shows testing in Massachusetts done on the same unit Pinelawn will purchase. The spokesperson says Massachusetts has stricter emission stands than Wisconsin.

The EPA does not have emission standards on crematory equipment and mercury emissions, but the Matthews' spokesperson, Jennifer Copas, says the crematorium emissions will include less than a 10th of a percent of mercury. She says a boiler in your basement or a lamp breaking puts over 2 percent of mercury into the air.

Copas says for those worried about the future effects .1% mercury could have can be found in a study that tracked mercury levels in the UK since 1987.

Pinelawn sent neighbors that voiced concerns the same information, but Bazett-Jones says it's not changing his mind.

"I'm not going to expose my children to low levels of mercury, no matter how low levels they are," said Bazett-Jones. "There's so many question marks that I really had to say I can't support this."

Pinelawn memorial park says they just want to help those who have lost a loved one.

"One thing that's very important to the consumer is the chain of custody of their deceased loved one, and we would be able to provide that service from the very beginning to the very end -- from the cremation process to the burial," said Hentges.

The Wauwatosa Community Affairs Committee will take up the issue on Tuesday, January 30th at 7:30 p.m. The public is able to comment.

The final vote will be on February 6th before the full council.

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