Ga. Senator Wants To Double Distance Between Crematories, Homes

Jeff Crowell is the owner of funeral homes in Peachtree Corners and Buford. His funeral home in Buford already has a crematory installed, and he’s trying to install a crematory at his funeral home in Peachtree Corners. 

But Republican Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta says he plans to file a bill to double the distance allowed between a crematory and residential area from 1,000 to 2,000 feet.

“That means you’ve got to be a half a mile from any home,” Crowell says. “Where in the world can you find a place in metro-Atlanta where you’re that far away from a home?” 

Georgia Funeral Directors Association executive director Alysia English says the 1,000-foot separation is in place as a visual setback and doubling the distance because of emissions doesn’t make sense.

“These are modern pieces of equipment that are computer-controlled whose very design is to ensure that everything remains there within the retort,” English says. 

Fifty years ago, there were only two crematories in Georgia. English says today, there are 108. Only five of those are stand-alone crematories, not located within a funeral home. 

English says crematories undergo annual inspections and have checks in place to ensure they are safe.

Her group and the Senate Research Office have presented evidence that crematories within funeral homes or stand-alone crematories do not have an impact on health or property values. 

The Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Department of Public Health report emissions of mercury and other chemicals from crematories are “extremely low” and are not a health risk.

But Sen. Beach says until it’s clear that they are safe, the distance should be increased.

“When I was young, growing up, they stated asbestos was not a health risk and now we know differently,” Beach says.

His bill would also apply to crematories within funeral homes. The current Georgia law requiring a distance of 1,000 feet from residential areas only applies to stand-alone crematories.