City taking more time to consider application for water-based cremation service
The City of Swift Current is taking more time to consider a discretionary use application by a local funeral home to install an alkaline hydrolysis unit for water-based cremation.
Councillors agreed to a request for more time by administration at a regular council meeting, Oct. 22.
A public hearing for this application by Swift Current Funeral Home took place during a previous council meeting on Oct. 9 and administration was scheduled to submit a report with recommendation to the Oct. 22 meeting.
Instead, City General Manager for Planning and Development Michael Ruus presented a report for information to the meeting to notify council that administration is still analyzing the information.
“The development permit application review has now been completed by the Planning and Development Division,” he said.
“However, given the feedback received during the consultation process and permit review, administration requires additional time to sufficiently analyze the information. Administration will bring a report with a recommendation on the decision to a future council meeting.”
Councillors expressed their support for administration's approach to do a proper analysis of all the information before making a recommendation.
“At the public meeting, both sides made compelling arguments,” Councillor Ron Toles said. “I think both sides need to be looked at very carefully and a number of homeowners send I'm not sure exactly how many letters of concern, and so I think that we made a really good call in putting this off until we can make further study into what the impact will be.”
Councillor George Bowditch said he was surprised by the delay, but due to the concerns that were expressed about the application he supports the approach taken by administration.
“As long as we have any type of decision like this, we got to make sure we get factual information,” he said. “We want to do our due diligence for our community, because we're here for our community.”
Councillor Ryan Plewis noted that this was the second public hearing in recent times that resulted in more than just a straight approval.
“I want to just make that point to folks in the city of Swift Current that public hearings are here for a reason,” he said. “They are sometimes required by legislation and sometimes required by our own zoning and our own rules internally at the City, and we do that because we don't know all the answers always. We try to make the best decisions we can, but the best decisions that we can make sometimes require input from members of the community and different perspectives that we may just not have in-house or in our own experiences as members of council.”
He therefore encouraged residents to take interest in public hearings and to participate in them when they want to present information about an issue under consideration.
“This is your community as well as ours and we're doing the best we can with the information that we have, and if you want us to consider information that maybe we don't have, we might be relying on you to come and provide that,” he said.
Swift Current Funeral Home has submitted a development application to the City to install an alkaline hydrolysis unit in a new 30 square metre (325 square feet) addition at the back of the funeral home.
The body of a deceased person will be 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. The alkalis used in the process are sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and potassium hydroxide (caustic potash).
Swift Current Funeral Home representatives Dan and Dominick Martens spoke about the safety aspects and environmental benefits of this process during the public hearing on Oct. 9. They mentioned that the alkalis 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. The alkalis only become active when mixed with water, but an automatic safety lock will engage on the hydrolysis machine before it fills with water.
Local resident Todd Tumback expressed some concerns during his presentation at the public hearing. He is worried about the discharge of improperly neutralized chemicals into the sewer system if the machine malfunctions and he referred to the potential hazard of storing sodium hydroxide at the funeral home. He felt the machine should not be installed in a residential neighbourhood.