Coun­cil to con­sider ap­pli­ca­tion for wa­ter-based cre­ma­tion ser­vice

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­[email protected]­t.com

The City of Swift Cur­rent is con­sid­er­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion by a lo­cal fu­neral home to in­stall an al­ka­line hy­drol­y­sis unit for wa­ter-based cre­ma­tion.

Swift Cur­rent Fu­neral Home sub­mit­ted the re­quest to es­tab­lish this cre­ma­tion ser­vice as an ad­di­tional use at its ex­ist­ing busi­ness lo­ca­tion in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood in the city. This type of ap­pli­ca­tion is a dis­cre­tionary use un­der the terms of the City's zon­ing by­law and there­fore re­quires a mo­tion at a coun­cil meet­ing to ap­prove the de­vel­op­ment.

The ap­pli­ca­tion process also re­quires that prop­erty own­ers within a 75-me­tre ra­dius are no­ti­fied of the ap­pli­ca­tion and that a pub­lic hear­ing is held. The pub­lic hear­ing for this pro­posed ac­tiv­ity took place at a reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing, Oct. 9.

Swift Cur­rent Fu­neral Home owner and fu­neral di­rec­tor Dan Martens and fu­neral di­rec­tor Do­minick Martens pro­vided de­tails about their ap­pli­ca­tion, and lo­cal res­i­dent Todd Tum­back made a sub­mis­sion to op­pose the in­stal­la­tion of an al­ka­line hy­drol­y­sis unit at this lo­ca­tion.

“The sys­tem it­self is the same process re­ally that oc­curs in na­ture when a body is laid to rest in the soil,” Dan Martens said. “With this sys­tem it is ac­cel­er­ated through the com­bi­na­tion of wa­ter flow, tem­per­a­ture and al­ka­lin­ity. We have also learned, as we re­searched this fur­ther, that our own hu­man bod­ies ac­tu­ally uti­lize a very sim­i­lar sys­tem in di­ges­tion with our lower di­ges­tive sys­tem. Our stom­achs work on acid, and as the food goes fur­ther down our di­ges­tive sys­tem, it ac­tu­ally uses a very sim­i­lar process to re­move the nu­tri­ents.”

The al­ka­line hy­drol­y­sis unit will be in­stalled in a new 30 square me­tre (325 square feet) ad­di­tion at the back of the fu­neral home. A body will be placed in a bas­ket cra­dle, which is then placed in­side a spe­cial­ized stain­less steel ves­sel for the cre­ma­tion process.

Dur­ing the al­ka­line hy­drol­y­sis process a heated so­lu­tion of 95 per cent wa­ter and five per cent al­kali is cir­cu­lated around the body of the de­ceased per­son. The al­ka­lis used in the process are sodium hy­drox­ide (caus­tic soda) and potas­sium hy­drox­ide (caus­tic potash).

All the al­ka­lis will be con­sumed dur­ing the hy­drol­y­sis process and the ster­il­iza­tion process will de­stroy any pathogens. The body in­side the stain­less steel ves­sel will be dis­solved and the fi­nal bone re­mains will be pro­cessed into a fine ash for re­turn to the fam­ily.

Dan Martens em­pha­sized the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits of the wa­ter­based cre­ma­tion process in com­par­i­son to the more com­mon flame-based cre­ma­tion. There are no green­house gas emis­sions, it uses less en­ergy than flame cre­ma­tion and it has a smaller car­bon foot­print.

“You will not see a smoke­stack, you will not smell any­thing by our fa­cil­ity,” he said. “The equip­ment, as far as the sound level, does not run any louder than what a house­hold dish­washer would. So it's ac­tu­ally very quiet that way. In fact, it would be a type of sys­tem that if some­one wasn't aware that it was in­stalled in a fa­cil­ity, they would never know. There would never be any phys­i­cal signs that it's ac­tu­ally there.”

He noted that Saskatchew­an was the first prov­ince in Canada to ap­prove wa­ter-based cre­ma­tion. It has been avail­able in the prov­ince since 2011, when Gray's Fu­neral Chapel in Prince Al­bert in­stalled an al­ka­line hy­drol­y­sis unit.

Wa­ter-based cre­ma­tion has been used for over 24 years at univer­sity and other re­search fa­cil­i­ties as well as by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and bio-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ries. Shands Hos­pi­tal at the Univer­sity of Florida pur­chased the first com­mer­cial sys­tem in 1995 and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Min­nesota has used the process since 2006 for their do­nated body pro­gram.

Do­minick Martens spoke about the safety as­pects of this process. The al­ka­lis that are used for the hy­drol­y­sis will be de­liv­ered and stored in a dry form, which are safe and easy to han­dle. Em­ploy­ees will be trained to fol­low the cor­rect pro­ce­dures and they will wear per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment while they han­dle the al­kali. A bucket of dry al­kali is emp­tied into the hy­drol­y­sis ma­chine and an au­to­matic safety lock will en­gage be­fore the unit fills with wa­ter.

“From a safety per­spec­tive, the agents that are used are safe to han­dle,” he said. “It will only be­come ac­tive when there is wa­ter in­volved. So it's not any­thing to be con­cerned about that way.”

Todd Tum­back raised a num­ber of con­cerns dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion at the pub­lic hear­ing. He noted that ma­chines will break down and mal­func­tion, re­gard­less of main­te­nance sched­ules or man­u­fac­turer qual­ity or stan­dards. He sketched a po­ten­tial sce­nario when a nearby home­owner hur­ries down into his base­ment to save pos­ses­sions if there is a block­age in the sewer sys­tem and the sewer is back flow­ing into his base­ment.

“If the ma­chine dis­charges im­prop­erly neu­tral­ized chem­i­cals into the sys­tem, that per­son now has caus­tic acid flow­ing into the base­ment of their house while they are try­ing to save per­sonal pos­ses­sions,” he said. “Even if the chem­i­cal is prop­erly treated and pumped into the sewer, the owner now has ef­flu­ent from the liq­uid cre­ma­tion of some­one's body flow­ing into their base­ment.”

He also raised con­cerns about the po­ten­tial hazard of stor­ing sodium hy­drox­ide in the new build­ing that will be at­tached to the fu­neral home. He is wor­ried that dam­age to this build­ing dur­ing any type of dis­as­ter will re­sult in the ex­po­sure of sodium hy­drox­ide to the nat­u­ral el­e­ments, in­clud­ing rain wa­ter, which will cre­ate caus­tic acid.

“In the event of a fire at the fu­neral home there is the pos­si­bil­ity that the at­tend­ing fire­men may not be aware of the stor­age of sodium hy­drox­ide on the site and mix in large amounts of wa­ter with­out even be­ing aware of the caus­tic acid com­pound they are cre­at­ing,” he said.

Tum­back ac­knowl­edged that the al­ka­line hy­drol­y­sis unit is a wellde­vel­oped ma­chine with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to make it as safe as pos­si­ble, but at the same time it is an in­dus­tri­al­type ma­chine with el­e­vated risks and pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions to the pub­lic and sur­round­ing neigh­bours.

“I know there is a need for this tech­nol­ogy and peo­ple also have the right to choose how they want their re­mains han­dled upon demise,” he said. “I can only sug­gest that this type of ma­chine not be in­stalled in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood and a more suit­able lo­ca­tion such as the in­dus­trial ar­eas be con­sid­ered.”

Coun­cil­lors are sched­uled to make a de­ci­sion on this dis­cre­tionary use ap­pli­ca­tion at their next reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing on Oct. 22.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.