A CREMATORIUM is to take Scotland’s green watchdog to court after a pollution warning was issued over the temperature at which it burns bodies.
Westerleigh Group, which owns West Lothian Crematorium in Livingston, revealed it would pursue legal action against the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) because its site was included in a list of operators which failed to comply with pollution control rules.
The agency slammed the firm with a “very poor” rating for failing to maintain a combustion chamber at the 800 degree centigrade temperature needed to minimise the emission of cremated human remains.
SEPA also said the crematorium had failed to provide notification or follow-up reports after six breaches in temperature control in the first half of 2011.
But crematorium bosses today hit back, accusing SEPA of misinterpreting national guidelines set by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and saying they would take legal action “to set the record straight”.
Richard Evans, managing director of Westerleigh Group, said: “We are appalled by SEPA’s decision to issue a warning to West Lothian Crematorium. It is fitted with the best available equipment and the standards we work to are amongst the highest in the world. Our cremators are fitted with a sophisticated filter which ensures that the process is effectively clean to air.
“We are fully compliant with the regulations and operate to agreed national standards. We stand ready to take legal action against any organisation alleging the contrary.”
Mr Evans admitted the temperature at the crematorium had fallen below the minimum threshold, but insisted the drops were momentary and due to the fact that one-off, rather than average, readings were taken by SEPA.
He said: “SEPA claim that six reportable minor breaches took place between January and June 2011 when the temperature in the cremator dropped momentarily below the 800C minimum to allow the cremator door to be opened for the first cremation of the week to take place. This is usual practice for all crematoria in the UK and leads to a momentary drop in temperature, typically two to five degrees, for a matter of seconds. It has no impact on pollution and we have never exceeded the emission limits set by SEPA.”
But SEPA bosses said the temperature controls, set out in West Lothian Crematorium’s operation permit, are to prevent breaches in emissions of “particulate matter”, which agency officers defined as the product of burning dead bodies, and mercury – produced mainly by cremating dental fillings.
Other pollutants emitted during cremation are hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide.
They added that they were not aware of, and would not comment on, plans by Westerleigh Group to take legal action.
Aidan Gilroy, SEPA environmental protection officer, said: “In the first half of 2011, West Lothian Crematorium experienced a number of drops in temperature below 800°C in the secondary combustion chamber. This, along with failing to notify SEPA of the incidents, resulted in the crematorium being marked as ‘very poor’ on SEPA’s compliance assessment scheme.”