Cloquet Neighbors Unhappy a Greener, Liquefying Cremation Process Could be in their Neighborhood

By KBJR News 1

January 10, 2012 Updated Jan 10, 2012 at 11:59 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Some residents in Cloquet are upset over one funeral home's plans to send human remains down the drain, but it's part of the process for a newer and greener type of cremation that uses less energy.

Some residents spoke Tuesday at a public hearing at City Hall about the moral dilemma of having bodies biocremated in their neighborhood at the Atkins Northland Funeral Home, and whether that could lower their property values.

They were also concerned about the possibility of hazardous waste from the process, which the developer says, there isn't any.

Bio-cremation is done by mixing water with an alkali solution of potassium hydroxide.

It essentially melts the remains inside a chamber, leaving just bones, which are finely ground and then given to the family.

The funeral home will be spending about $200,000 on the machine used for the process.

The byproduct, which includes the liquefied remains, goes into the sewage system.

During a brief presentation the product developer said bio-cremation has five percent of the carbon footprint of a burial and 10 percent of the footprint of a regular cremation.

One woman who works inside the sewers says she doesn't like the thought of remains being in the system.

"I do not and cannot accept to work in an environment that has liquefied human remains running past my feet with along with urine and feces."

The product developer says all the byproducts are safe and sterile.

"There's no air pollution. There's no mercury pollution from tooth amalgam going up into the air, and there's no odor for the neighbors. It's a sealed process," said Joseph Wilson of Bio-Response Solutions.

Western Lake Superior Sanitary District has already told the funeral home they would accept the waste product flushed out the machine as long as pH and mercury levels are met, which the developer says are no problem.

Tuesday, the Cloquet Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use permit to have biocremation. The City Council will now also have to approve the permit in order for it to become a reality.

There are places where this process of biocremation is already used in Minnesota.

The Mayo Clinic has had a machine since 2006 and the University of Minnesota also has one. There is also one proposed in Stillwater.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike