Revised Resolution Aims To Tackle Ongoing Concerns Over White Marsh Crematorium
PERRY HALL - A resolution aimed at addressing community concerns over the location of the Evans Funeral Chapel crematorium in White Marsh will once again go before the Baltimore County Council.
Resolution 25-23, introduced by Councilmember David Marks on August 7, would urge the Maryland General Assembly and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to modify State regulations concerning the location of crematory incinerators.
The resolution was initially introduced in early April after residents and community groups expressed concerns that the crematorium would emit hazardous fumes. It was later tabled following fierce opposition at a Baltimore County Council meeting on April 25, with council members sharing their view that the legislation would hinder business development.
"We should not do anything to discourage cremation - Maryland ranks number two in the cost of funerals nationwide," Councilman Wade Kach said at the meeting. "There are regulations already in place, I'm certain of that."
Resolution 25-23's current version "encourages" MDE to review and subsequently amend state regulations to incorporate concerns associated with living near crematory incinerators. Its core proposal is implementing specific distance requirements (set-back requirements) between crematory incinerators and residential properties and facilities that cater to vulnerable populations, such as children and elderly individuals.
Unlike its original version, the new proposal does not directly enforce any regulations - significantly increasing its likelihood of gaining the council's approval.
Currently, Maryland regulates crematory facilities similarly to trash or medical waste incinerators. All crematory facilities must undergo annual inspections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act and MDE to meet State air quality standards.
"No particulates in the smoke are toxic. Maryland is one of the most regulated states: I have to meet with the MDE every year to have the crematory," Jennifer Wright, supervising crematorium operator of an Evans Funeral Chapel location, said. "[The manufacturer] comes to inspect the equipment annually. If there were any issues with my unit, it wouldn't run."
The resolution also urges MDE to re-examine potential health concerns associated with living near a cremation incinerator. Residents, including Charles Hillsburg, whose newly purchased home is within 400 feet of the planned crematorium, have cited mercury emissions as a primary concern.
"From my window, I can easily see the spot where the toxic smoke would originate. I can also see the swings and park that I would hopefully enjoy with my future children," Hillsburg said. "I dread the thought of having to explain to my future children why they cannot use the playset that they can see out of their window."
Mercury is used in silver amalgam dental fillings, making up roughly 50% of their composition. According to the Crematorium Association of North America, mercury boils off early in cremation, and only a minuscule amount is emitted into the environment.
An application to construct Evans Funeral Chapel's cremation facility in Forest Hill states that in the "worst case" scenario, the projected facility-wide emissions would equal ~0.0066 pounds of mercury per hour - well below MDE's screening limit.
Resolution 25-23's current version will be discussed at the County Council's work session on Tuesday, August 29, 2023 at 4 p.m. Final Reading and Vote will occur at the Legislative Session on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, at 6 p.m.
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