Humphrey proposes different type of crematorium
by Whitney Snipes 3-9-2014
One man’s vision for a peaceful final resting place has some residents near Russellville concerned.
Jim Bob Humphrey, president of Humphrey Funeral Service, said he has a vision for a space that will meet the needs of grieving families with dignity and elegance.
To fulfill that vision, he plans to build a cemetery on property along Center Valley Road and State Highway 124 that has belonged to his family for some 70 years.
The 35-acre site would include a cemetery as well as a 3,000-square-foot administrative space containing a reception area, meeting and conference rooms, office space, chapels and a state-of-the-art crematorium unit.
That last component has some neighboring residents upset about the project.
James King, a nearby resident whose land has been owned by his family for several generations, said he is concerned about emissions and doesn’t think it’s appropriate to have a crematorium in that location.
“We just don’t want this kind of industry in our community,” he said.
Yet Humphrey claims one of the reasons he is building the Center Valley Memorial Gardens is precisely to take the industrial feel out of cremation.
“I’m not going to do that anymore,” he said of the current industrial cremation process, adding families deserve to have their loved ones treated with dignity.
To achieve that goal, he has found a state-of-the-art unit that is unlike anything used in Arkansas. The equipment will allow him to “pull the curtain back” and make the process very open and dignified for families. He noted in some cultures, families must be present during the cremation process.
In addition, Humphrey said the unit he has selected goes above and beyond minimum environmental standards. He said someone standing outside would not be able to ever tell when the unit is running.
The addition of a crematorium to Russellville is important, Humphrey said, because cremation currently accounts for 25 percent of final dispositions. That number is expected to grow to 40 percent in Arkansas and 50 percent nationwide by 2025, Humphrey said.
With cremation growing in popularity as a means for final disposition, the need for creating a more dignified and less industrial solution is even greater.
Even so, some residents, such as King, worry about the proposal, especially because the site is adjacent to Center Valley Elementary School.
Humphrey said he has a great deal of respect for the school — in fact, his family sold the Russellville School District the land upon which it sits.
Because of the expressed concerns, he said there has been some discussion with school officials to donate a 50-foot piece of land adjacent to the school fence upon which the district could build a two-lane road.
The road could provide some traffic relief for the school as well as an added barrier between the school and cemetery. Humphrey said trees would be planted in a staggered pattern on the cemetery side of the street, essentially blocking it from view of the school.
The proposed site is not in Russellville city limits and therefore not governed by the city’s zoning codes. Humphrey said he is going through the proper permitting procedures with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), Arkansas Cemeteries Board and Arkansas State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.
The Russellville School District is expected to schedule a public information meeting to allow Humphrey to present his proposal to the community and answer any questions, but a date has not been set.
Humphrey was scheduled to attend a meeting Thursday night, but it was postponed.
Residents have formed a group called “STOP the Center Valley Crematorium.” Its Facebook page states it is made up of concerned citizens who want to stop the construction of Center Valley Memorial Gardens.
“We’re trying to raise awareness in Center Valley and bring more people into the opposition of the crematorium,” King added.
Concerns addressed at second crematorium hearing
by Laura Bean 12-20-2014
Residents of the Center Valley community spoke in opposition to Jim Bob Humphrey’s proposed crematorium during a second public hearing Friday at Russellville City Hall.
Conducted by the Arkansas State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, the public hearing took place because Humphrey withdrew his permit and is now proposing to move the crematorium further from Center Valley Elementary School, which forces him to reapply for a permit.
The new site of the crematorium within the Center Valley Memorial Gardens would be located 1,650 feet from the elementary school, but the change in location was not enough to satisfy opposition.
Scott Steuber said the crematorium’s mercury emissions — which Humphrey said was 0.0000937 percent worldwide in 2013, as calculated by the United Nations — should be enough to convince the board to deny the permit.
“It’s reasonable to not put an incinerator with the capacity to burn tons each year next to an elementary school. The proximity to the school is the issue,” Steuber said. “Where would you deny one and on what grounds? There won’t be another elementary school in the state of Arkansas with something like this next to it.”
Terri Altman, a Center Valley resident who has a grandchild attending the elementary school, said she was also opposed to the amount of mercury the children could be exposed to.
“If the topic of cremation is not appropriate for discussion for these elementary age kids, why would a crematorium be placed on property adjacent to the school’s playground?” Altman said. “As adults, we all have the responsibility to protect children and their health and innocence.”
Wes Freeman, a Russellville real estate agent and resident, said the crematorium would also have negative economic impacts.
“This is a lose-lose situation for everyone. It’s a lose situation for the public, and in the long term, a lose situation for Mr. Humphrey,” Freeman said. “No matter if it’s going to be put there or not, for a large portion of our community, his name is going to be tarnished.”
Humphrey countered the opposition with Price Station of the Ozark Gas Transmission Line, which has an identical air permit Humphrey is currently seeking from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and is 2,118 feet from the elementary school.
“I find it surprising that there are engineers and doctors here who have spoken who have not expressed concern about the 54 tons of carbon monoxide being produced by this station,” Humphrey said, which is in contrast to the 0.15 tons produced yearly by his crematorium.
Humphrey also named several supporters who live near the elementary school, as well as a crematorium to be constructed near Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home that had nearly no opposition.
“The question has been why not move this facility,” Humphrey said. “After 35 years in the funeral industry, I have become concerned with the approach our industry has generally taken regarding cremation and moving toward this industrial approach.”
Humphrey said moving the crematorium to an industrial location would distance the family and hamper grieving by creating a disconnect between the crematorium and the cemetery.
“Largely, it is a cultural issue,” Humphrey said.
The board voted to suspend its ruling until a permit from the ADEQ is either granted or denied.
Crematorium hearing today
by Sean Ingram
07:19 PM, Wednesday, April 01 2015
A public hearing for local residents to voice their concerns on a proposed crematorium near Center Valley Elementary School will begin at 6 p.m. today inside Russellville City Hall.
Hosted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), the public hearing was rescheduled after inclement weather Feb. 17.
Jim Bob Humphrey has applied for coverage under an ADEQ general permit for a proposed crematory at 2601 Center Valley Road and State Highway 124.
Over a year ago, Humphrey Family Properties LLC proposed to build and operate a crematory on a 35-acre site. Center Valley Memorial Gardens would include a cemetery, a 3,000-square-foot administrative space containing a reception area, meeting and conference rooms, office space, chapels and a state-of-the-art crematorium unit.
Residents spoke against the crematorium during a second public hearing in December 2014 hosted by the Arkansas State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. Humphrey had withdrawn his permit and proposed to move the crematorium further from Center Valley Elementary, which forced him to reapply for a permit.
The new crematorium site would be located 1,650 feet from the school, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy opposition.
Residents said they were opposed to mercury emissions that will come from dental emissions during cremation. It would make the crematorium the first of its kind in the U.S.
Humphrey pointed out mercury emissions were 0.0000937 percent worldwide in 2013, as calculated by the United Nations — much less than the mercury that is omitted from office light bulbs.
The seven-member board conducted a hearing July 29 at Russellville City Hall — when Humphrey offered to remove the fillings prior to cremation — and unanimously voted to postpone a vote until its August meeting.
The Pope County Quorum Court was asked to approve a resolution against construction of the crematorium at Center Valley. Humphrey addressed the Russellville School Board in March and hosted a public meeting about Center Valley Memorial Gardens last April at Center Valley Elementary School.
Opposition to the crematorium has posted a page on Facebook entitled, “Stop The Crematorium.”
Scott Steuber, who is against the crematorium, said he has asked ADEQ to to indicate how much mercury comes out of the 26 other licensed crematories in the state and determine how much is being produced.
He has also asked ADEQ to require Humphrey to install a dust collection filtration system that would collect tons of particulate matter that is being produced and discharge systems to trap heavy metals.
Steuber said he wanted the ADEQ to consider locating an air monitoring station near the crematorium and elementary school.
Read more: The Courier – Your Messenger for the River Valley – Crematorium hearing today
ADEQ hosts public hearing concerning crematorium at City Hall
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 11:12 pm | Updated: 12:41 am, Fri Apr 3, 2015. by Michelle Jostmeyer
Pending the ADEQ’s decision, a permit will be issued to Humphrey Family Properties LLC to construct a cemetery, a 3,000-square-foot administrative space containing a reception area, meeting and conference rooms, chapels and a state-of-the-art crematorium unit.
Parents and residents who say the proposed location of a crematorium is too close to Center Valley Elementary School met Thursday night at Russellville City Hall for a public hearing hosted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
Pending the ADEQ’s decision, a permit will be issued toHumphrey Family Properties LLC to construct a cemetery, a 3,000-square-foot administrative space containing a reception area, meeting and conference rooms, chapels and a state-of-the-art crematorium unit.
Plans for the Center Valley Memorial Gardens were submitted more than a year ago, but the issue of mercury emissions from incinerating dental fillings caused owner Jim Bob Humphrey to reapply for another permit farther and beyond visibility from the school.
The new site at 2601 Center Valley Road and State Highway 124 is 1,650 feet away from the school, and toxicology analytics have shown that the emissions from the crematorium will not affect human, animal or environmental health.
Toxicologist Dr. Joshua Harril evaluated the proposed emissions’ amounts, focusing particularly on the neurotoxin mercury. Considering the most extreme effects possible on the most sensitive individual, he said his data determined that the emissions would be anywhere from 10-100 times below concentrations that could affect human health.
“That’s less than the amount of mercury someone with a filling would be exposed to after eating a meal,” he said.
But speakers of the opposition said the lack of regulations is the problem. According to law, crematoria are only required to be checked every five years, though ADEQ permits branch manager Thomas Rheaume said similar facilities are looked at yearly.
“We consider the proposal a minor source of emissions, and the amount of mercury is not going to be at a level that would even require regulation,” Rheaume said.
Scott Steuber, a parent opposed to the crematorium, said even if the mercury produced will be inconsequential, he still wants a monitoring device implemented that will gauge emissions.
“Last fall fish were tested for mercury in the Ouachita, and the testers decided that eating those fish should be limited,” he said. “If fish can be tested, then why can’t a crematorium?”
The answer, stated by more than one speaker in favor of the construction, is that this mercury gauge would cost around a million dollars.
Humphrey’s representative Robert Veach said his client offered to remove the dental fillings before cremation, which would make his facility the only of its kind in the United States to take such measures.
Consensus parental opinion at the hearing was if the slightest possibility exists that children could be affected, the crematorium should be moved.
There are 55 operating crematoria in Arkansas, about half of which are used for humans and the rest for animals.
Residents: Issue is child safety
by Sean Ingram
09:30 AM, Friday, April 03 2015
Nearly a third of the people who attended a public hearing told the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) they either supported Jim Bob Humphrey or believed his proposed crematorium would put emissions into the air that could harm children at a nearby elementary school.
Thursday’s hearing at Russellville City Hall attracted 39 residents, and 11 of those made official statements that were recorded by ADEQ staff members. Humphrey has applied a second time for an ADEQ air permit so he can build and operate Humphrey Family Properties LLC, which would include a crematory on a 35-acre site along Center Valley Road and State Highway 124.
The first three speakers — Mary Ann Rollans, Jock Davis and Mike Larkin — all spoke on behalf of Humphrey and voiced their approval of the project.
“I know Jim Bob would not build a facility that would jeopardize the health and safety of our children or anyone in this community,” Rollans said.
“He is known throughout the community as a giver and not a taker,” Davis noted.
“He has told me this will be a state-of-the-art facility, and I believe him. He has done his homework,” Larkin pointed out.
But Hugh Laws led a group of people who said their primary concerns were mercury emissions near children at an elementary school.
“What’s at issue is the young children in a rural community in Pope County, not in Russellville,” Laws explained. “My concern is, and the concern of the ADEQ should be, the school community of Center Valley, which is the largest elementary school in the Russellville School District.
“In my opinion, this would not be going on next to an elementary school in the city of Russellville, because of zoning laws. It does not fit. I would employ Mr. Humphrey to say, ‘Does this really fit in that community?’”
Laws went on to say building the crematorium at Center Valley does not make a good business plan.
“It’s not that there shouldn’t be one, just put it somewhere else,” he said. “It’s dangerous for these children. Another gentleman tried to build one next to an elementary school and fought it all the way through the courts. But he also chose not to build it. It is my opinion he chose not to build it because it didn’t make good sense to build it next to an elementary school.
“I don’t want the first one to be next to Center Valley Elementary School.”
Scott Steuber said he thought Center Valley Gardens should be built safer because it is near an elementary school, although Humphrey re-applied for permits after he moved the crematorium back to where it would be 1,600 feet from the school.
“I’ve been to every meeting. I’m not new to the party. It’s always been about emissions, emissions, emissions,” Steuber said. “I still don’t have a solid number that says this is why we think it is safe. How can ADEQ the determine amount of mercury in fish and not the amount of mercury from a crematorium?
“Consider the safety of these children, and the possibility of ongoing litigation.”
Terry Altman said she didn’t think a crematorium should be allowed next to an elementary school, adding that all adults should provide the best environment for our children.
“I am asking you to consider the risk involved and make sure our children are kept safe,” she said. “An inspector told me the ADEQ is only required to test [crematoriums] every five years. That is unacceptable.”
Before the public hearing segment started, Cheryl King asked an ADEQ staff member if the permit was granted, would the ADEQ actively monitor and test the crematorium for mercury levels. She was told no, but another audience member was told 55 crematoriums are inspected every five years and would be inspect if a complaint was made.
James Humphrey, the son of Jim Bob Humphrey, said he has thought about the crematorium and as the father of a son understands the concerns.
“We’ve been in business for 80 years,” he said. “Center Valley will be located on land that has been in our family for five generations. Safety will always be the No. 1 concern for us at the company. We’re always concerned about the well being of the children and the community.”
Dr. Joshua Harold, from the Center for Toxicology at the Arkansas Department of Health, said he reviewed emissions of mercury from a crematorium. Studies conducted using a worst-case scenario with facilities closer than the elementary school, but not using children at an elementary school setting, would not be harmful to human health. He added that predominant wind directions are opposite of the school.
“I do not believe emissions from the crematorium would pose a health risk to the children or surrounding community,” he said.
Arnold Bowden praised the ADEQ and their efforts throughout the state and said not many states can still claim that they are still natural. He said there were three cases that could be reviewed that indicated there is no danger to the environment in operating a crematorium.
Thursday was the last day of public comment on the permit. Look for more in a future edition of The Courier.