In April 2011 a county permit was issued for a building to house crematory
operations. The building is located at 408 Headquarters Dr., Millersville,
MD. The county is Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
The crematory location is 260 yds to the closest homes. The majority of
homes in two residential communities are within 1600 yds. There are
approximately 1500 homes in the two communities including an elementary
school and youth sports league facilities. The facility is located on a
septic system. The facility is adjacent to county-established critical water
Neither the county zoning permit application nor the permit approval was
The crematory company then applied for a state air quality permit. A public
announcement was made by the Maryland Dept. of Environment. At the request
of one of the nearby residential communities, an informational meeting was
held on May 17, 2011. This was the first that the public had become aware of
the county permits issued to this crematory business.
The room was filled to capacity with over 200 homeowners in attendance. At
this meeting the public expressed concern over: 1) the potential health
risks associated with a crematory operation in such close proximity to
homes, schools, recreational areas, 2) the process involved with the County
permit and some of the uncertainties and lack of information pertaining to
the details of the crematory operation, 3) the uncertainties about the
State’s process and measures to ensure safe levels of emissions upon opening
of the operation and maintenance over the long-term, 4) the nuisance of such
a facility located in such close proximity to homes, the emotional
discomfort, and the potential impact on property values.
This meeting did little to resolve issues but instead exposed the wide gaps
in regulatory processes and cracks in regulatory oversight. It was clear
that the county and state health departments had no involvement. The
environmental reviews only considered air quality, not land or water impact.
The air quality review only looked at pre-operational model data based on
EPA models that were never tested to real-life conditions. The models used
by the state do not factor in even the majority of potential harmful
crematory emissions/toxins. The air quality regulators emphasized that they
do not ever actually test air quality in communities where permits are
granted. The air quality regulators based model data on inputs provided by
the business operators and incinerator manufacturers. The air quality
technical review does not factor in risks of emissions from biomedical
materials in common use in human bodies.
Immediately following the state’s air quality meeting, a formal application
for “appeal” to the county’s permit was submitted by homeowners.
In 2010, the Maryland Board of Licensing for Morticians established a
distinction between funeral establishment and crematory facilities giving
each a unique legal definition.
Homeowners contacted local county and state government officials with their
concerns. With the support of one county representative and one state
official, the community rallied behind the proposition of a bill (53-11)
that would have established zoning for funeral establishments as commercial
while crematory facilities would require industrial zoning. The bill went
before the County’s seven Council Members.
On August 1, 2011 a County Council public hearing was conducted. The room
was filled to capacity with strong public support for the bill. Council
members failed to recognize either the health concerns presented by the
public or concerns over nuisance factors or detrimental impact on property
values. Instead they were concerned about disturbing the funeral industry
and their business lobbyists. On August 15, the bill failed with only one
vote from the representative of the Millersville district.
On August 17, 2011 a public hearing was conducted regarding the zoning
appeal before the County Board of Appeals. The crematory owners were backed
by representatives of the funeral industry. Homeowners again came forth to
support the case, requesting denial of the building permits. The hearing
will continue on August 24 and October 13, after which the Board of Appeals
will issue a written decision.
The technical review conducted by the Maryland Department of Environment
regarding the air quality permit is also pending.