LETTER: Crematorium incinerator proposed for Keyser
To the Editor:
What would you say if I told you that a medical waste incinerator was being built within the city limits of Keyser? While it is hard to believe, it is in fact true. A legal advertisement placed in the Tuesday, October 5th edition of the Tribune outlines the potential discharge of regulated air pollutants such as: carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, lead, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Wow! What a toxic atmospheric soup! To be fair, the funerary industry terms this facility a crematory. Whatever you call it, this operation will belch the above listed known contaminants into your air. Additionally, not listed with the poisons mentioned above is mercury. Mercury is a common element found in dental amalgam, or ‘silver’ fillings. When mercury is vaporized at temperatures of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (the operating temperature of the proposed furnace), it is released into the atmosphere. The EPA has determined that mercury is 5,000 times more toxic than lead! Exposure to mercury is especially dangerous to small children, pregnant women and the elderly.
If you are concerned about this recent development in your backyard, you are urged to contact Mr. Ed Andrews at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Air Quality, at 304-926-0499 Ext. 1214, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy of the application for the permit is available at Keyser City Hall, or by contacting Mr. Andrews.
Be sure to make plans to attend the next city council meeting on Wednesday, October 27th at 4:30 p.m. to voice your support or opposition to this incinerator.
Do your homework; an informed electorate is the best electorate. Don’t take my word for it…..find out for yourself!
Rev. Ernest L. Poland, Jr., Esq.
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK: Wait for facts on crematorium issue
There is an issue which has a number of Keyser residents currently concerned and which I predict will have quite a crowd gathered at this afternoon’s Keyser City Council meeting.
We haven’t written about it in the News Tribune yet because it just came to our attention within the past few days, but sometimes it’s better to let you, the citizens, tell the story anyway.
If you read the Letter to the Editor from the Rev. Ernest Poland which ran in Tuesday’s News Tribune, you now know that a local funeral home is planning to construct a crematorium behind it’s current building.
The idea – and the pollutants which the applicant has estimated will result – were outlined in the legal notice which ran in the News Tribune on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
According to the notice, the potential discharge for the facility are as follows: CO (that’s carbon monoxide) – 1.71 tons per year; Hydrocarbons – 0.351 tons per year; NOx (nitrogen oxide) – 0.351 tons per year; Pb (lead) – 0.0005 tons per year; PM10 (particulate matter) – 0 tons per year, SO2 (sulphur dioxide) – 0.293 tons per year, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – 0.351 tons per year.
Now, I freely admit I am no chemist and it has been a long time since I studied the periodic table in Harold Walters’ chemistry class. In fact, I had to look up what most of the abbreviations stood for in order to explain them to you.
I also have no idea how much each of these estimated amounts might be when you compare them to the grand scheme of things. I do know, however, that the emissions are that much more than we have now.
According to the legal notice, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has jurisdiction over whether this facility is approved for construction, and anyone wishing to comment on the proposal – good or bad – has until 30 days from the publication date of the notice to deliver written comments to the WVDEP, Division of Air Quality, 601 57th st. S.E. Charleston, WV 25304.
If I’m figuring correctly, that’s Thursday, Nov. 4.
I’m hoping, since Rev. Poland is urging anyone with any concerns or questions about the proposed crematory to come to today’s Keyser City Council meeting (4:30 p.m. in City Hall), that a representative of Smith Funeral Home will also be there to present their side of the story.
And there is ALWAYS two sides to every story.
This whole issue is reminiscent of a situation some 12 or 14 years ago when a medical waste incinerator was looking to locate in the Fort Ashby Business and Technical Park. Residents of the surrounding area were quite concerned about possible pollutants and meetings were held to voice both sides of the issue. In the end, the business chose to locate elsewhere in West Virginia – where there was less resistance.
In that case, I accused many of those who opposed the business of NIMBYism – Not in My Backyard. To be honest, the evidence just didn’t support their concern. In fact, I remember the director of the Mineral County Development Authority at that time even picking up handfuls of the resultant residue from the process in an effort to prove it was not toxic.
The residents continued to voice opposition, however, and we lost the business and the jobs that were supposed to come with it.
In this case, however, the facility is going to be in the middle of town as opposed to out in a less densely populated area.
Which raises the question: Why not locate it on the chapel property in Burlington?
And please, don’t translate that into any kind of disregard for the quality of life for the residents of the Burlington area. I’m just looking for possible alternatives. It may or may not be viable.
The point is, right now there are a lot of questions and I urge those attending this afternoon’s meeting to carefully consider both sides of the story.
I want to hear the facts before I make up my mind.
Keyser City Council urged to oppose crematorium
by RICHARD KERNS
Tribune Staff Writer
KEYSER — A standing-room-only crowd packed Wednesday’s Keyser City Council meeting, calling on the Council members to join in the residents’ opposition to establishment of a funeral home crematorium in the residential neighborhood of South Main Street.
Local attorney and pastor Ernie Poland led opposition to the crematorium proposed by the Smith Funeral Home, saying emissions from the facility will threaten the health of nearby residents, and that the operation will reduce nearby property values, impacting residents and city government alike.
“My goal is not to fight City Hall,” Poland said. “My goal is to enlist City Hall.”
Opening discussion on the issue, Mayor William “Sonny” Rhodes took pains to note that the city has no role in approval or denial of the incinerator. Rhodes said he would send out a letter Thursday morning asking that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection conduct a public hearing on the crematorium, but that the city could do little more.
“The city has nothing in it … we can’t do anything,” the mayor said. “Tomorrow morning there will be letter sent out under my signature requesting a meeting in the city of Keyser. I guarantee you that.”
Rhodes said the funeral home wanted to have the incinerator operational by December, but assured residents the process would not move so quickly. “That’s not going to happen,” he said.
Brian Smith of Smith Funeral Homes was not in attendance at the meeting.
In leading opposition to the crematorium, Poland’s main concern focussed on emissions of mercury from the incinerator, which he said pose a genuine health risk to area residents, with mercury poisoning being cumulative over a lifetime. Noting that the city has ordinances requiring pet owners to clean up dog waste, he asked why the city does not regulate an operation like the proposed crematorium.
“I can’t think for a minute this crematorium will be any less toxic than dog excrement,” he said.
Poland also questioned the city’s approval of the building permit for the crematorium, saying Smith was not forthcoming with details about the facility when the permit was issued.
City officials acknowledged that the permit was granted for construction of a “funeral home preparatory lab,” with no mention of an incinerator.
“That’s not full disclosure…,” Poland said. “Don’t you think there should be full and complete disclosure? This almost seems fraudulent.”
Rhodes said city officials were taken aback when they learned the building Smith was constructing would be used for a crematorium. “We had no idea what it was,” he said.
In addition to health concerns, Poland cited a study that found property values of homes within a half-mile radius of a crematorium typically decline by 35 percent with the siting of such a facility.
“That’s not just bad for the people who live there, it’s bad for the city,” he said, noting reduced property tax revenue.
Poland’s remarks drew applause from the 25-plus residents who filled the City Hall meeting room for the Council session. All who addressed the Council spoke in opposition to the crematorium.
Jenny O’Connor called on the Council members to state their position on the matter, saying “Is the Council prepared to speak for the citizens?”
None of the Council members declared clear opposition to the facility. Councilman Glen “Bunk” Shumaker expressed concern about the mercury emissions cited by Poland, while Councilman Ed Miller said he would await more information from the DEP. Councilman Sonny Alt said he only learned about the crematorium two weeks ago.
O’Connor also criticized the location of the crematorium, which would be located in the heart of the South Main Street neighborhood. She called on Smith to build the facility at his Burlington funeral home, which is more remote. “Let him build the damn thing out there,” she said to applause.
Beverly Davis, who said she lives 115 feet from the proposed incinerator, criticized Smith for failing to inform his neighbors about his plans. “Why didn’t Brian call a town meeting to begin with, and let the people on Main Street know?” she said.
“He didn’t want us to know,” came a reply from the back of the room.
Davis drew chuckles from the crowd when she asked the Council members to put themselves in her place, living a stone’s throw from the crematorium. “If I ask you to come to my house for a barbecue, who would come if Brian was also having a barbecue?” she said.
Mary Lee called on the Council to enact an ordinance prohibiting crematoriums in the city. “This is a sad situation if the city doesn’t have an ordinance to protect the citizens from this happening again,” she said.
Mayor Rhodes noted that the city has an ordinance regulating wood burning stoves, prompting a man in the audience to declare, “You can’t burn wood but you can burn bodies.”
Poland summed up his remarks by challenging the notion that the city has no role to play in the matter. He called on the Council to join residents in opposition to the crematorium. “All I expect is for the city to stand up for the residents of Keyser,” he said. “Let’s go to bat together on this thing.”