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Regulations head off crematory woes in Tri-State area

April 08, 2002|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

What happened at a human crematory in Georgia wouldn't happen here, Tri-State regulatory officials said.

Authorities have found more than 330 uncremated remains that had been stacked near the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Ga., for many years.

Crematory operator Ray Brent Marsh allegedly told investigators the incinerator was not working properly, but a later inspection showed that wasn't true, according to published reports.

Marsh has been charged with over 230 counts of theft by deception. Family members are facing other charges.

In Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, human crematories are regulated by the states' environmental protection departments, which set emission standards.

Officials said crematories are inspected annually. Inspectors watch the incinerator in operation.

"Our inspection entails physically watching them load a body and watching the process, start to finish," said Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

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If there's a problem, an inspector can shut down the crematory, he said.

Officials said there are two crematories in Washington County and one in Franklin County, Pa.

The only crematory in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, at the Rosedale Cemetery in Martinsburg, hasn't operated in a few years, according to an employee there who didn't want to be named.

Brandi Hunter, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Air Quality, said Pennsylvania first imposed emission standards for crematories in the 1970s.

It was not triggered by any specific incident, but "more so because we wanted cleaner air," Hunter said.

She didn't know what the standards are.

Pennsylvania's permits are good for five years.

Rebecca Johnson, a chemical engineer with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Air Quality, said the opacity, or lack of transparency, of the smoke that comes out of an incinerator is regulated.

West Virginia also sets standards on the temperature in the secondary chamber of the crematory, where small particles accumulate. The temperature must be at least 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit in the secondary chamber, Johnson said.

She was not sure if there is a temperature regulation for the primary chamber, where combustion takes place.

Maryland crematories need two permits to operate - one for air quality and one for record-keeping and maintenance, McIntire said.

"You shouldn't be able to smell it or see it coming out of the stack," he said.

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