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Capacity Crowd Attends Crematory Hearing

Residents state reasons they're against a proposed zoning ordinance.

An overflow crowd jammed into the Peters Township Council Chambers Monday night for a public hearing on the controversial zoning ordinance covering crematories in the township.

The ordinance amends "part seven" of conditional uses by adding crematories and provides specific conditions. The ordinance allows for crematories to be included as an allowable conditional use in the L1, or Light Industrial District, and sets regulations for their use. The ordinance has been recommended for approval by council by the township planning commission.

Out of the capacity crowd, 12 residents who had registered in advance to testify, presented their arguments, with the majority of them taking issue with guidelines outlined in the proposed ordinance.

"There are a number of things that would be worthwhile additions to the ordinance," said Povl Jorgensen, a resident of Prestonwood Lane. "Two of the most important issues are to add the requirement to provide for continuous monitoring for dioxin, like you have done for mercury, and do not permit parametric monitoring for mercury as the current draft now allows."

Jorgensen said that without continuous monitoring, data are not being recorded real time and are not available to demonstrate what the actual emission levels are. He noted that the Environmental Protection Agency mandates that continuous monitoring be required for both mercury and dioxins in Hospital/Medical/Infectious Waste Incinerators.

"Why not the same for body incinerators in Peters Township?" he asked. 

Brett Englesberg, a resident and father of four children said he had "serious concerns" over the way the ordinance is written.

"I feel obligated to help protect the health, safety and welfare of my family and community,” Englesberg said. 

He listed seven concerns over having a crematory in a light industrial location that included setback and distance from where one could be located within 500 feet of a residential neighborhood. 

"The light industrial areas (of the township) are lower than the residential neighborhoods, so the emission of odor will rise straight into our homes. This will certainly put the health, safety and well-being of our community at risk, as well as lower our property values and force us to live with the odor of burning bodies," Englesberg said.

Several of the speakers were applauded by audience members after their testimony.

Cheryl Ferris also spoke to the concerns of proper monitoring of emissions.

"Certain chemicals can’t be completely destroyed by burning," she said. "Dioxins were a component of Agent Orange in Vietnam, and were found in the Love Canal. Dioxins can cause reproductive problems and also cause cancer."

Several speakers urged council to pass an air quality standards law rather than the conditional use ordinance to cover crematories. They cited an example of Kulpmont Borough, another community in Pennsylvania, saying the Peters Township is far weaker. The Kulpmont ordinance they claim imposes tougher standards and more stringent testing for air quality.

Some speakers expressed concern over the number of cremations per day permitted under the ordinance. In the proposed ordinance, a crematory "shall perform no more than 12 cremations a day." Hours of operation will be permitted between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and chimneys in the free standing building "shall be at least 1.5 times the height of nearby structures."

The zoning ordinance also states that a crematory can provide a private viewing room of the cremation for family members and stipulates that it may not be used to conduct public or private funeral home services.

Resident Sean Perich said he was concerned because the proposed ordinance does not specify fines for violations.  

"Even if the fine is $500 for each violation, if you’re burning 12 bodies a day at a thousand bucks, I would take that," he said. "With tougher fines like $10,000 a day for each violation and even jail time, you wouldn’t keep doing what you’re doing. You need continuous monitoring."

Perich said the proposed ordinance is not good enough.

"We have 21,000 people living in this township, and 5,100 of those are under the age of 18. It’s not good enough for my kids and not good enough for your kids. You should demand more," he told the audience.

Council members said that so far there have been no applicants for opening a crematory.

They will review all the testimony and are scheduled to take action at their meeting on Oct. 22.

"All of us are going to do what’s right for the township," said council President Robert Lewis. “I’m going to vote on what I think is in the best interest of the community."

Sherri Laster October 03, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Watch this video if you think crematories are safe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU8nSn5Ezd8 How Mercury Causes Brain Neuron damage from the University of Calgary The residents of Peters Township submitted many scientific studies that prove there is a danger from toxic emissions.
Roger October 03, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Living in Peters - I work in Peters residential neighborhoods every day. So, yes, I know what is being done, where, and to what extent, probably to a far greater extent than most residents.
Roger October 03, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Treatment plants do not treat storm water runoff, only sanitary sewer flows. The apples-to-apples is all the talk of environmental concerns, pollution concerns. Why is one more important than another? If the great concern is about pollution, why not address the large contributor first, then be concerned about the trivial?
Roger October 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Harry, treatment services use both. Why? Because the customers demand results. Some services do only liquid applications, for both fertilizer and pesticide/herbicide treatments. Granulated material for the second need is ineffective.
Roger October 03, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Thanks for all who support my first post of this being a non-issue. The article makes no references to detrimental effects from other facilities in this area. Crematories have been in use for decades, and if these units are so detrimental to human health, why isn't there a record of the negative outcomes. Telling the Council that the ordinance for Peters should be tighter than XXXX is a bogus argument, holds no facts or underlying evidence. Without seeing any reason to make this an issue, I return to my former assertion that there is another agenda behind the objection. Pollution is not the issue, despite all the rhetoric. Oh yes, a few chose to make pollution the matter, and others jumped aboard the wagon for no good reason (e.g. listening to the statements in the article). As I stated above, if pollution was really an issue for Peters' residence, then start with the big issues. I raised the lawn treatments as an example. Should we limit the number of 400 hp diesel powered trucks delivering supplies to Giant Eagle? I'm sure the stream of these trucks overnight is steady (maybe it is OK because people don't see them, and they want stocked shelves in the morning when arriving to shop). What about all the cars sitting at bus stops, delivering able-bodied children from a block or two away? Two or four trips per day to these stops -- yes, pollution. Are we really serious about pollution, or just building a case for a hidden agenda?
From a students eyes October 04, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Roger hit the nail on the head. Have an expert tell me there is an issue and I will believe it. Have a stay at home soccer mom quoting research she probably doesn't understand and I will roll my eyes.
Chris October 04, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Roger, I could not agree with you more. These people drive their big Cadillac, GMC and Checy SUV's to this meeting and then complain about the minimal "pollution" caused by a crematory. What a Joke. I am a Peter's resident and I am sick of what this township has become. I wish "these" people would get a life. The fact's do not support the arguement!
Alecia October 04, 2012 at 12:36 AM
This is all VERY VERY entertaining to me, as a mom of 5 children - that I'm raising in this crazy world the absolute last thing that I would worry about is this. This small group needs to worry about other things in life than this non sense.
Mike October 04, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Roger, let me fill you in on one of the "hidden agendas". I would say most of the people in Peters have paid a premium to live in this township. It may be even safe to say that we have significant investments tied up in our homes. So when, let’s say a crematory wants to set up within a 2 mile radius of your investment...guess what .... people tend to not be happy. Now, you’re going to say there is no statistical data to support the negative effect on property value. What I say to that is, if a simple survey of potential home buyers where conducted and asked "would you knowing buy a home close to a crematory" and the majority answer NO, then I would suggest there is a case for 200+ homes to appeal their property values (taxes). I know, the township would lose much needed revenues but I guess thinking that far ahead wouldn't make much sense. Let's just pass an ordinance and let the next council board deal with the mess.
Mike Ewall October 04, 2012 at 01:47 AM
You've never heard of someone dying from crematory pollution? Well, now you have: "The risk of stillbirth was 4% higher and the risk of the life threatening brain abnormality anencephalus was 5% higher among babies whose mothers lived near to crematoria." Find the study here: http://www.ejnet.org/crematoria/health.html Also, keep in mind that deaths from ANY type of pollution is very hard to prove because there are so many sources of pollution and cancers don't come tagged with "I was caused by a dioxin molecule from this incinerator" notes.
Mike Ewall October 04, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Yes, lawn chemicals are a serious issue. So is fracking. So are crematoria. There's no point beating people up for being active on one and not the other, but now that there are clearly a number of people on this thread concerned about lawn chemicals, let's deal with the issue at hand (crematoria) while it's still timely, then after we win that, we can work together on lawn chemicals (or other issues that affect Peter Township residents).
Chris October 04, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Property Values??? I thought that this was about the enviroment and pollution and the safety of your children. Which one is it???
Mike Ewall October 04, 2012 at 03:11 AM
It's totally valid to have multiple concerns about something. Pollution that affects health (especially children's health) is the same pollution that harms the rest of the environment and property values. These concerns often come together whenever any community organizes against polluters, whether it be crematoria or larger polluters like landfills, incinerators, refineries and power plants. This talk about a "hidden agenda" and people having to pick one reason to be concerned about something (or having to fight everything at once to not be deemed a hypocrite) is nonsense. Let's be mature about things, recognize the connections, recognize that there are legitimate pollution and health concerns with crematoria and that there are better alternatives. Let's also recognize that it makes sense for the township to adopt an ordinance requiring a polluter to be the cleanest they can, and to ensure that everyone can know what pollution is being released at all times.
Patty October 04, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Roger, where were you at the PUBLIC HEARING voicing your point of view?? I have been a resident in Peters Twp since 1974, a PTHS graduate, am a Woman who owns a business in Peters Twp and have invested in Peters Twp. The issue is creating a ZONING specific to CREMATOIRES. Let’s stick to one fact. Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Health Statistics and Research states in Washington County had 2,495 deaths in 2008. IF the proposed Crematory Zoning is written: Days of operation would be MONDAY through FRIDAY, 7am – 7pm no more than 12 BODIES a DAY. That would allow A Crematory facility burn 3,120 BODIES PER YEAR. One facility could provide a service above the WHOLE County death statistics. If the proposed Zoning is passed as written, 2-3 if not more Crematory facilities could be burning over 6,000 bodies a years! Roger, How many smoke stacks do you want to have in our beloved Peters Twp? How many bodies do you want to breathing in?? Whether you are ware or unaware? We are NOT discussing the “Zoning” of chemical use in our yards. We are discussing the air we breathe. Please do not confuse the issue. This issue was NOT created by PETERS Township BUT by ONE individual for PROFIT motives. Wake up and Smell the Coffee….. Oops the Smoke (bodies)!
James Stiegel October 04, 2012 at 01:45 PM
How about being concerned with the drugs, recent thefts, and burglaries in our community? Take a look at the front page as an example... If you need more examples, read the Observer police blotter.
Dr. Astley October 04, 2012 at 06:30 PM
You know nothing about cremation and it's harmful effects until you see this! It will completely change your mind and the reason I stand behind what I believe! Unreal! Thank you Dr. Rick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0
S.Manfred October 04, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Dr. Astley, I am glad that someone has brought humor into all this nonsense. I use to really like Rick Astley and I love that song. This made my day. THANK YOU!!!
Capt. Locks October 04, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Patty, it's a business, what do you think they do it for, sugar cookies? Of course it's for profit! My gut tells me (given that the only comments you have ever made on here were against this) you’re out for profit as well. Also, please show me a cremation unit that has a “smoke stack.” Show me the 3 “smoke stacks” around Children’s Hospital? The picture you would like to paint for everyone is clear…ignorance. Go back and do your homework. Also, I love the fury you unleashed with the usage of CAPS..LMAO
Kathy October 04, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Outside communities are laughing at us, and they are laughing for a good reason. People need to let the experts at this, and give you guys the facts. Because some of these comments are completely ridiculous. I'll start by say that I was against this in the beginning. My neighborhood had me completely terrified and in a uproar, because my husband and I were just finding out that we were expecting our second child. And all of my neighbors from rock run road convinced me and my husband to go to one of these meetings, or should I say "scared" us into going. Long story short... When I went to the doctors, I was basically laughed at! The doctor was being as nice as possible but explaining to me that cremators were not on the list of things to stay away from like blue cheese and raw fish! Since then I can not tell you how many people (excluding the brained washed peters township group) that have laughed, commented or simply in awe at how ridiculous not any truth and out of control this subject has gotten!! I and so many others in surrounding communities truly feel sorry for The small group in Peters township that are involved and believe such nonsense!!! I am embarrassed to admit to others that I attended one of the meetings! Bottom line experts are called experts for a reason! And anyone can find anything over the Internet!!!
Sherri Laster October 04, 2012 at 10:49 PM
http://no2crematory.wordpress.com/the-toxic-truth-data/ No one wants a crematory expect the proposed operators and employees.
Mike Ewall October 04, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Actually, many outside communities are also fighting off crematoria, and for good reason. Read the scientific research and industry and government reports. It's a proven fact that crematories release mercury, dioxins and numerous other pollutants that are inherent in any solid fuel combustion system. It's thoroughly documented that there is no safe dose of dioxins and that they climb the food chain, so that 93% of your dioxin exposure is through meat and dairy, with infants at the tip of the food chain, getting the highest exposures. See http://www.ejnet.org/dioxin/ Mercury's hazards are also well-documented, and U.S. residents (especially Pennsylvanians) are already overexposed -- above any "safe" dose (if there were one). Doctors are not given any substantive training (if any) in toxicology, nutrition or epidemiology. They're taught to diagnose and treat symptoms, not to prevent exposures. Your doctor should only laughing at their own ignorance. I'm glad to see that your doctor recognizes that some animal-based foods are not safe. Part of the reason is that they're contaminated with mercury and dioxins! It's true that there are many dangers in our society, plenty of which are even worse than crematories (like trash incinerators or coal power plants), but that does not justify building an unnecessary -- and poorly regulated -- crematorium to add to the numerous toxic exposures that southwestern Pennsylvanians already suffer from.
Scott October 05, 2012 at 12:24 AM
OMG, a cheap non-regulated biased website, it has to be true! I'm on your side now because you have the intrawebs as an education background. Ha! Are you that naive? I believe when you said "no one" you mean the small group of you that drank the koolaid...right?
Mike Ewall October 05, 2012 at 12:31 AM
So, a "cheap non-regulated biased website" links to numerous sources of information from government and academia that you probably didn't even click on, no less read, but feel you can ridicule people for using that information? If you don't think these government and academia sources of information are credible, how about finding flaws in it and rebutting it with actual documentation of your own. Cheap-shot name-calling does not make you credible. Citing stuff does.
Scott October 05, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Meh, I read some of it, not impressed. It's backed by a very biased group that are in the same fight as you seem to be in. Now if they actually took their blinders off, gave me both points of view, and accepted some truths, I might agree that their citing were barely credible. But it doesn't, and there is more emotion based subject than fact littered on that site. Im sure If I researched long enough I could probably find "academia sources" that say blow-pops caused cancer.
Mike Ewall October 05, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Sure, the citations are hosted on the site of a community group that is opposed to crematoria. But the info they've collected is credible stuff. None of it is just made up "emotional" stuff from advocacy groups. It's all legit. Here are the types of the sources they cite: 1. Letter from two congresspeople to EPA, citing industry, government (EPA) and academia sources. 2. EPA's response to congress (saying significant things like that EPA estimates that 6,613 pounds of mercury were released from crematoria in 2005, which is a pretty huge amount, considering how toxic mercury is and how little is needed to poison a whole lake of fish to the point where we should not eat them... and by the way, there are mercury fish consumption advisories for ALL people on ALL fish in EVERY water body in PA) 3. Industry data source 4. Government agency data (ATSDR) 5. Government agency data (OSHA) 6. Local government agency research, from an engineer who put together one of the best research compilations on the topic, compiling info from mainly federal agency and industry sources. See the more thorough compilation of this research (with pages of references) here: http://www.ejnet.org/crematoria/reindl.pdf 7. Info from an attorney on a crematory mercury poisoning case. Dismiss this if you like, but the research behind mercury's affects are well-established and just echoed here.
Mike Ewall October 05, 2012 at 02:25 AM
{continued from above} 8. Info from an advocacy group ("Ban Mercury Working Group") which has 41 footnotes, citing mainly government and academia sources. 9. A 2010 peer-reviewed science journal article, providing an exhaustive literature review showing dioxin and mercury pollution from crematories are a concern, and citing an extensive number of other research papers on the topic. 10. Another peer-reviewed science journal article, from 2003, finding that "the impact of [dioxin] emissions from crematories to the surrounding environment was quite significant." 11. A 2010 Penn State study of property values near crematoria, showing that they're lower near crematoria. So, maybe you can find a study showing blow pops cause cancer, but go ahead and try to find anything credible saying that crematoria do not emit mercury or dioxins, that mercury and dioxins are not among the most toxic chemicals known to science and that they're not already pervasively polluting meat and dairy products people eat. I dare you. You can't, because the weight of the science has been clear for a long time.
Mike Ewall October 05, 2012 at 02:38 AM
From the most exhaustive literature review of peer-reviewed, published scientific studies on the topic, comes this conclusion: "An exhaustive revision on the scientific literature [was conducted]... if the [crematory] facilities are installed near nuclei of population, any specific filter is used, and the high of the stack is relatively low, human health risks should not be discarded, and a monitoring program should be carried out. In relation to mercury, which is a highly volatile element, to date the most important source has been dental amalgams containing mercury, which are unstable at cremation temperatures. ...if mercury emissions from crematories are not properly controlled, these facilities could mean a relatively important source of atmospheric pollution. Another relevant aspect of toxic emissions of crematories is the noted lack of general regulations of these emissions. ...neither the European Union nor the US EPA has established specific recommendations for crematories. ... Therefore, we think that crematories must also be among the facilities whose emissions should be specifically regulated and monitored." Source: http://no2crematory.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/toxic_emission_from-_crematoriesenv-intl.pdf (the 9th reference on the page discussed above). If you don't like that this is hosted on an activist site in full, you can visit the science journal's page and pay $39.95 for it: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412009002050
Scott October 05, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Wow, you spent some time on that one! Ha I hope you and your family are nice and comfy with where you live, Mike, cremation units are around the world. Good luck with your crusade against cremation! :)
Sherri Laster October 05, 2012 at 12:11 PM
THE P.T. SCHOOL DISTRICT WILL BE HURT IF A CREMATORY OPERATES IN PETERS TOWNSHIP. NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE TAX REVENUE DROP, BUT ALSO BECAUSE THE STUDENTS THAT ARE LEFT HERE WILL BE BREATHING DANGEROUS I.Q. LOWERING TOXINS. A bio-cremation unit is now maunfactured by Matthews International, one that does not emit any brain degenerating mercury. Why would they do that if the units are safe? In Europe they require filtration on traditional units. This is coming for the U.S. and the industry knows. Further, in some countries they are located away from people. Most of the comments for the crematory are the same lingo from the same group. Since the "it is safe" nonesense did not work because people in Peters Township are not stupid, they have resorted to trying to ridicule people-that won't work either- this is about the children and senior citizens. Use your last name or do not comment. Residents will think you are part of the industry.
Sherri Laster October 05, 2012 at 03:12 PM
http://www.matthewscremation.com/technology/bio-cremation.aspx The above explains some of the many dangers to the public from cremation. b.t.w. I can't find anyone who knows a "Kathy on Rock Run Rd" if you do exist please contact me and I have boxes of information that proves the danger to the community. It is simply not worth taking a chance- sort of like ignoring Asbestos or lead paint.

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