New bill aimed at regulating crematoriums

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A Northeast Portland funeral home shut down its cremation incinerator more than one year ago. Now, some environmentalists are concerned it may start up again.

New legislation would give the board that licenses funeral homes and crematories more authority to regulate businesses. Without it, one state representative said there isn’t much they can do to stop practices that caused controversy in a local neighborhood.

“Our group was complaining about the smoke and the noise for about two years,” Right to Clean Air spokesperson Chuck Spidell told KOIN 6 News. “They were operating pretty much six days a week.”

Spidell said grey and black smoke was released into Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood from a smokestack at a local crematory.

“One of the toxins that can come out of that crematory is particulate matter,” Spidell said. “Drifting directly over to the playground of the school.”

He said a local elementary school and community garden were right in the line of fire. According to Spidell, operators shut down the incinerator when they were cited for noise violations in February 2014.

But Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer of Portland said there’s always a possibility they could start back up. That’s why she’s pushing for the passage of House Bill 3056.

“This bill is really helping the board be able to regulate its own industry better by saying if there are problems with health or nuisance, we may add that then at the very least we have a conversation with you,” Keny-Guyer said.

With proposed amendments, the new bill would allow the board to limit operations if they posed a risk to kids congregating nearby, and it would also allow them to require operating equipment consistent with national standards.

“We’re really excited about the bill because Oregon is known for really strong environmental regulations,” Spidell said. “What we’ve noticed with the crematory industry, there’s really a lack of it.”

Spidell said he is hopeful the state could be on its way to better regulations if the new bill is passed.

“We’re hoping to see some change,” he said.

Keny-Guyer said a hearing has already been held to discuss the bill, and lawmakers will take another look at it on April 10.

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