Report quells crematorium health concerns

A city report examining other jurisdictions has confirmed a crematorium poses no threat to human health.

A city report examining other jurisdictions has confirmed a crematorium poses no threat to human health.

Though it’s not going to kill the controversy, the document’s probably enough to guarantee council’s approval next week.

“It wasn’t really an environmental concern,” said Mike Gau, city planning and development services manager. “This is one place governments are getting away from regulations.”

The issue is not even on the Yukon Health department’s radar because emission levels are so low, Gau told city politicians.

The report cites an Environment Canada report from 2000 that shows crematoriums are “very minor contributor(s) to total Canadian air emissions.”

While legislation and regulations vary across the country — some provinces require crematoriums to follow air emission standards, others do not — it’s clear that new crematoriums pose no threat to human health if run properly, as confirmed by Yukon and BC medical health officers, said the report.

Council has had enough time to consider the issues and it’s time to vote, said mayor Bev Buckway.

“When it comes to making a decision, we can’t say we didn’t have enough information to base it on,” said Buckway. “With having these additional reports, I don’t find there’s a reason for health issues to stop the (crematorium).”

The report was commissioned to alleviate concerns of those who’ve expressed fears about the crematorium, but some people will never be at ease, she added.

The additional information was presented at Monday’s standing committee meeting.

Since May 28, city council has been considering a zoning amendment to allow construction of a crematorium in Porter Creek at 1101 and 1103 Centennial Street.

After a public hearing in late June, when opponents presented a petition from 130 residents concerned about the crematorium’s environmental impact, council delayed the amendment vote for two weeks while city administrators compiled the report.

A final vote on the proposed amendment is scheduled for the July 23 council meeting.

Kamloops city councillors have already gone through the debate their Whitehorse counterparts are having.

The Kamloops administrative report concluded that levels of potential emissions from crematoriums are acceptable for their community.

The Yukon government has no legislation specifically dealing with air emissions from crematoriums, but several people at Monday’s meeting said the government is studying the issue.

Calls to Community Services and Environmental departments could not confirm this.

Some provincial governments maintain boards that regulate and licence funeral homes and crematoriums, but the Saskatchewan government is working to end the board and introduce regulations enforceable by the Saskatchewan Funeral and Cremation Services Council.

Heritage North Funeral Home owner Chris Thompson again addressed council about the crematorium he wants to build. He spent most of his time in front of councillors discussing the report’s reference to potential mercury emissions from dental fillings burned in the cremation process.

Bodies are sometimes burnt with dental fillings intact, but often they can be sucked out beforehand or disintegrated when coming into contact with a high-impact drill used before cremation, said Thompson.

The report found mercury emissions would be too low to cause concern.

Thompson said he was glad to see that council would move ahead with the vote at the next meeting because he needs to start construction soon.

“Our building season is short, but time will tell how that all sorts out; traditionally, construction costs never go down,” said Thompson.