Sunshine Coast medical health officer Dr. Geoff McKee says the health risk from emissions at the area’s only crematorium are low.
The Devlin Funeral Home at 579 Seaview Road in Gibsons is in a residential area, and earlier this summer several area residents complained after seeing unusually thick smoke from the crematorium. The funeral home has been on that site since the mid 1940s, the crematorium was added in 1987 and both are permitted uses under the property’s zoning. The operation is regulated by the province.
In a letter to council dated Aug. 15, McKee said, “At capacity, the crematorium at Devlin Funeral Home operates Monday to Friday from 9AM to 5PM; however, levels of operation may fluctuate below capacity given the rural setting… After recently reported malfunctions resulting in the ‘black smoke’ events, the equipment was reportedly quickly repaired. According to the regulator, Devlin Funeral Home has been compliant with the requirements.”
McKee goes on to say Devlin is taking steps to follow best practices, and “Following an onsite tour by a VCH Environmental Health Officer, the facility appeared to be well run and in excellent sanitary condition… Occasional puffs of smoke have been reported during normal operations, attributed to large body size or small collections of residual ash/debris.”
McKee’s conclusion is that, “given the available information, under normal operations, the risk to human health posed by the emissions from the Devlin Funeral Home crematorium appears to be low.”
Coun. Silas White praised the thoroughness of McKee’s response to the complaints.
“I was really impressed working with Dr. McKee on the crematorium issue,” he said. “There were some serious health concerns that people had, and we took them to the public health officer and he did a really great job of doing research and collecting everybody ’s concerns and addressing them, and also identifying some gaps in the regulations.”
Among those gaps is the fact that B.C. does not have regulations that specifically target crematoria emissions.
“While future research may inform any decision to regulate crematorium emissions provincially, there is not enough evidence to support additional action from local public health at this time,” McKee wrote.