There was some fiery debate at the April 21 meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners over a Sandy Creek Road man’s attempt to seek a conditional-use permit to expand the crematorium on his property.
Neighbors expressed concerns about the crematorium owned by David Campbell, 6771 Sandy Creek Road, saying the crematorium spews toxic gasses; they were seeking not only to have the conditional-use permit denied, but have the crematorium removed from the property.
Cape Fear Crematorium has been located on Campbell’s property since 1992, and at the time it was built there was no zoning for that part of the county.
Neighbors Preston and Margarette Dunn, who have lived adjacent to Campbell since 1972, opposed the expansion, citing the toxicity of chemicals expelled in the burning of human bodies, such as dioxin and mercury.
At a previous meeting of the Cumberland County Planning Board, which approved the expansion request by Campbell, Margarette Dunn said, “This is the first opportunity that we have had to object to this crematorium or accept it because there was no zoning when it was built. Our land values have fallen and our potential for development has decreased because of these potential emissions. The mercury is a serious issue with residents and children.”
James McLean III, the attorney representing the Dunns, concentrated on the presence of dioxin, saying it was a major ingredient in Agent Orange, a Vietnam War-era defoliant that was later proven to cause many health problems in veterans, including cancer.
Neil Yarborough, attorney for Campbell, countered, "This is the first time I’ve ever heard anything about any Agent Orange."
Yarborough said the crematorium has been inspected and found to be in compliance with rules and regulations put forth by the North Carolina Crematory Authority, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources told the commissioners that the crematorium has been inspected as recently as December due a complaint the agency received, and the crematorium was found to be in compliance.
These same representatives said that the Environmental Protection Agency no longer monitors the output of crematoriums because they are not considered a danger to the community.
"As far as poisons go," said Yarborough, "this is an agricultural area with turkey farms and where many toxic chemicals are used. Environmentally, the crematorium is safer than a lot of what surrounds it.
"Mr. Campbell wants to install a newer, more efficient furnace that will reduce emissions even further," added Yarborough.
After much debate, the Dunns agreed to withdraw their opposition to the conditional-use permit if Campbell promised not to build a second crematorium on his property.
Campbell agreed and the conditional-use permit request was passed 6-1, with Commissioner John Henley the only negative vote. Henley voted no after his motion for more stringent language in the conditional-use permit died due to lack of a second.