A public hearing took place this past Tuesday at city council for a discussion about a new method of cremation coming to Swift Current.

Water-based cremation was the point of discussion at the meeting, presenting all support and opposition to the relatively new method of cremation.

The proposed alternative to flame-based cremation, with a scientific name of alkaline hydrolysis, involves a solution of mostly water and a smaller percentage of alkali mixture completing the same process as flame-based cremation.

The amount of ashes created from the process is about 20 per cent more than conventional cremation.

Marketed as a green alternative to flame-based cremation, there are no emissions of greenhouse gasses from this process, and consumes about 1/15 of the energy.

At the public hearing arguments for and against the new system were heard.

An argument presented by Todd Tumback, a concerned citizen, against the process mostly focused on safety.

Tumback stated that while the machine which administers the process does have fail-safes, it could still be dangerous.

 "If there is a blockage in the sewer system downhill from the funeral home, let's just say at 423rd Avenue North East, and the sewer is back flowing into the basement, the owner would most likely hurry down to save possessions, if the machine discharges improperly neutralized chemical into the system, that person now has caustic acid flowing into the basement of their house while they are trying to save personal possessions."

Tumback went on to say that even if the chemicals had been appropriately neutralized, there would still be material from the disposal of the body in their basement.

Further explaining scenarios which could lead to the release of harmful chemicals, Tumback entertained the idea of a tornado striking the building housing the machine.

"If in the event of a natural disaster, such as a tornado hitting the side of the building and causing a breach, sodium hydroxide could be broadcast over a large area of surrounding neighbourhood mixed with rainwater and create caustic acid," Tumback grimly stated. "The damage that could happen from this type of event is hard to estimate."

The third and final potentially dangerous scenario that Tumback said could occur when dealing with the alternative to fire based cremation was the danger posed in the event of a fire.

"In the event of a fire at the funeral home, there is a possibility that the attending firemen may not be aware of the storage sodium hydroxide on the site and mix in large amounts of water without even being aware of the caustic acid compound they are creating," Tumback said in the presence of firefighters who were also in attendance at city council at the time. "The storage of sodium hydroxide also hinders the ability of firefighters to battle a fire, because I am not aware that you can use water to fight fire in the presence of sodium hydroxide."

Two people at the public hearing spoke on why they think there should be a water-based cremation site in Swift Current.

Dan Martens, and Dominick Martens, funeral directors from the Swift Current Funeral Home, the site where the process would be carried out, were present at the event to give some more information about the process.

An argument made by Dominick Martens was that the process is an efficient process which has proved itself in testing.

He cited a 200-page study on the economic impact created by the process.

"At the conclusion of that study, it was well established by the scientific community that there are no concerns for emissions from alkaline hydrolysis, in fact, it's one of the many reasons that some of the most prestigious institutions install this type of equipment in place of traditional flame based incinerators."

Dominick Martens also stated that the process would leave the remains of someone who was afflicted with a contagious disease safe due to the removal of DNA, although cremation has the same result.

In 2012 the Government of Saskatchewan approved the process of water-based cremation.


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