Bereaved families are facing delays in cremation arrangements because of the installation of pollution-reducing filters.
Filters, which can cut mercury emissions from tooth fillings by up to 99 per cent, are being installed in Gwent, Margam and Bangor crematoria, but as a result funeral directors are warning of delays of up to a month.
With strict rules now imposed for crematoria, to limit mercury pollution through the implementation of special equipment by 2012, Gwent has said it will hold only half of its usual 15 services a day until March as it aims to meet the government target of 50 per cent mercury reduction.
Gwent Crematorium in Croesyceiliog is the only crematorium in the Torfaen, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire area and carries out an average of 2,750 cremations a year. Cremations at Gwent are now held daily until 1pm, at which point building work commences.
Michael Ryan, a funeral director from Newport, said: “In fairness to Gwent Crematorium, we’ve known about this for six to eight months and I’ve put in place plans to try to ensure a family doesn’t want to wait very long for a cremation.
“For example, Thornhill Crematorium has been very supportive and will do the back-up if they can. There’s also Glyntaff Crematorium in Pontypridd which we could use.
“It’s a distressing time and it may cause further distress, but so far families have been understanding.”
Mr Ryan also said that some funerals had been delayed by up to two weeks already and that he could foresee a wait of up to a month in winter. His firm is contributing to petrol costs if families need to use another crematorium.
New filters are also currently being installed at Bangor Crematorium and similar work will soon begin at Margam Crematorium in Neath Port Talbot, which holds an average of 1,300 cremations a year.
Secretary and executive officer of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, Rick Powell, said that just over three-quarters of the half million deaths in England and Wales each year were followed by cremation, and that moves to comply with legislation on mercury emissions were progressing well.
“We’ve been dealing with this since 2005 [and] the sector has responded extremely positively,” he said.
Image: Gwent Crematorium