BIG THANK YOU TO ELLIOT BRACK
Issue 10.44 | Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Tucker area people concerned about possible crematory
By TIA SEVERINO
Special to GwinnettForum.com
TUCKER, Ga., Aug. 31, 2010 — It may come as a surprise for many to learn that in Georgia there are no current regulations on toxic emissions from crematories, which can include dioxins and mercury vapors from amalgam fillings.
Since mercury is known to be one of the most poisonous substances, causing serious neurological issues, it is astonishing that no effort is required by the funeral industry to prevent this release, and no independent, unbiased third party is charged with monitoring the pollution of our air, water, and soil from a completely preventable source. Yet this is just what was discovered when a Gwinnett County
homeowners’ group began to investigate the impact of a proposed addition to an adjacent funeral home intended to house a crematory unit.
Just behind and around the Bill Head Funeral Home on U.S. Highway 29 in Tucker, within 100 to 1,000 feet, Mimosa Estates is a subdivision of more than 50 houses. Most of us accept that there is a funeral home nearby, but we strongly oppose the Special Use Permit request that, should that be granted, that would allow a crematory to be added to that location.
We have legitimate concerns about property value loss, which some sources indicate could be as much as 50 percent of the already deflated current value. The existing funeral home may deter some potential buyers, but the pool of interested parties will decrease dramatically when it is learned that right next door, or around the corner, is an operating human remains incinerator.
The creepy factor is just too much for most people. Even if the current homeowners cannot or do not wish to sell their property, the issue of odor, smoke, fine particulates, and toxic chemicals will so drastically impact the quality of living, physiological and psychological welfare that it does not constitute a best use of the land.
On September 7, the Gwinnett County Planning Commission Board will consider the request by Bill Head; opposition to this permit will also be heard. Our community plans to do everything we can to prevent a crematory addition in our neighborhood. Whatever impact we will have on the zoning issues is to be determined at this meeting. For the sake of our collective benefit as residents, please attend.
It also seems to be a matter of public health concern that Bill Head is operating a crematory in an undisclosed location which has no signs indicating that fact, directly across the street from Lilburn Middle School, and right next to a residential area with apartment buildings and homes. The crematory at this unmarked, unlisted location has been in operation there for nearly two decades, and according to the letter of intent sent to some residents in the affected area, is the unit intended for relocation at the funeral home owned by Bill Head further down the highway. When asked about the toxins released by a report that is nearly 20 years old, the story was changed to “We plan to put in a new, low-pollution model.”
Old or new, we don’t want a crematory in our back yard.
Issue 10.48 | Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010
Crematory issue is growing concern among Tucker community
Editor, the Forum:
Gwinnett County residents in Tucker and Lilburn came out in the hundreds for last week’s Planning Commission meeting to protest the addition of a Crematory to the Bill Head Funeral Home at 6101 Lawrenceville Highway.
Representing Mr. Head was Gerald Davidson, who drew contempt from the crowd when he made the statement that crematories are safe. One person from an adjacent neighborhood yelled “You’re lying! How much did they pay you to say these lies? ”
Bill Head is under the mistaken impression that his proposed addition would only affect at most seven homes. Actually the number of concerned residents is closer to 500, and many of them have mortgages on average $250,000, bought before the economic collapse.
In addition, they are a multi-cultural mix of Asians, Muslims, Hindu, Hispanic, black and white. Our personal beliefs are varied, but we all agree on one thing: no crematory in our neighborhood.
Our large Asian presence is offended by what they consider to be disrespect for the dead, to release the spirit in a place of unrest. Muslims do not allow cremation, and do not want to be near one. For Hindus, cremation is a sacred ritual that must be performed a certain way.
Catholics traditionally do not cremate, and many Christians are against it. And, of course, none of us want to make that choice unavailable for those who want it. Our main concern is that toxic emissions from the crematory will hurt our health and our investments in our homes. We want stricter regulations and enforcement of the laws currently in place.
Tuesday night the planning commission moved to table the vote until November 3, to allow the members of the panel to research the data presented by the opposition. To learn more visit WWW.NOCREMATORY.COM.
— Tia Severino, Tucker
Issue 10.52 | Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
Writer maintains Lilburn crematory is operated unlawfully
Editor, the Forum:
After the Tri-State Crematory incident revealed the lack of any regulations requiring crematories to be licensed and inspected, one might expect Georgia to now have some of the strictest laws on the books. Conversely, it is business as usual ’round here: lax regulations, lax enforcement. Begs the question: Who is watching the only entities legally authorized to incinerate human bodies?
Residents formed the Community Awareness Network (CAN) to protest a crematory addition to Bill Head’s Funeral Home at 6101 Lawrenceville Highway. After learning of the Special Use Permit applied for by Mr. Head, hundreds attended the Planning Commission meeting on September 7, only to leave disappointed when the vote was tabled to November 3. Rather than sweeping the matter under the rug, the importance of this issue was forgotten, and delaying the vote only strengthened the opposition’s resolve.
Facts surfaced regarding unlawful practice of an unlicensed crematory in Lilburn – the same crematory that Bill Head’s letter of intent states he intends to relocate to his Tucker Funeral Home. Open records requests resulted in a letter from the Secretary of State: they do not have license at the address 5005 Highway 29 in Lilburn. Given that Georgia Law regulating crematories requires the license be issued to a specific address, at which there must be a crematory unit, records indicate the license Bill Head does have is not valid for either location.
Our message to the Planning Commission, Gwinnett Board of Commissioners, Funeral Board, Lilburn city officials, candidates running for election, and the public about this issue: it is unconscionable that the city of Lilburn has allowed this unlicensed crematory to operate for 15 years, the last seven of which there have been laws to prohibit such activities. It is incomprehensible to us that the county commission might actually approve that same business owner’s request for a crematory in our residential area, despite his lawyer’s assertion that the property is surrounded by dense woods. Underneath those trees are our homes.
Our children cannot wait on industry to realize harm done and take steps toward remediation. Parents of children who attend Lilburn Middle School and Lilburn Elementary School need to be aware of ongoing releases of mercury and other toxins in close proximity to those schools.
Nationally, other communities are working with us to share data, resources and contacts. To date, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Minnesota have locked arms with CAN in Georgia to effect change on a federal level, seeking legislation to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate crematory emissions. Other groups are invited to join at www.nocrematory.com
— Tia Severino, Tucker
Issue 10.58 | Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
Residents plan anti-crematory march near funeral home
Editor, the Forum:
Over 500 Tucker residents who oppose a crematory addition plan to march a half mile strip of U.S. Highway 29 in front of Bill Head Funeral Home on October 23 at 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The residents come from diverse backgrounds and different cultures, but the issue joins them in a common cause: protecting their homes and families.
While the funeral industry denies that the crematory business pollutes, current data disputes that claim and draws a different conclusion. Until it is proven that these toxins would not impact health, protest groups will continue to take a stand against residential installations of crematoriums. Many also feel that selling a house near a funeral home in this deflated economy will be challenging enough without adding a crematory.
The protest should not be necessary. The law in Georgia forbids any new crematories within 1,000 feet of a residential area. The request for a special variance on zoning to allow this crematory is asking the county to approve what would otherwise be illegal and unacceptable. The Tucker location was granted in 1991 a reduction in the required 75 foot buffer zone for funeral homes. The property has only a 30 foot buffer. If the addition is built according to the plans submitted, the smokestack from the crematory unit would be even closer to nearby homes.
The commission board should deny this request. Any other outcome is unacceptable. Georgia needs to pass legislation to strengthen rules on crematories and require air permits to operate within the state. In the last month other groups in other states began sharing data, resources and contacts. Members from Anderson, S.C. will join the march to support this cooperative effort. The fight has become one of national interest. More info about the Tucker group:www.nocrematory.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Tia Severino, Tucker