Crematorium near school riles neighbors in NE

Crematorium near school riles neighbors in NE

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by Pat Dooris, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 24 at 10:11 AM

PORTLAND -- Some parents are up in arms in Northeast Portland after a funeral home added an incinerator and cremation to its services.

Now parents worry about smoke from the incinerator drifting over Vestal Elementary, a school with 400 children.

“It doesn’t seem appropriate right across from a school. I mean, when you see smoke coming out when its dark coming out it just goes right over the playground. I don’t feel happy having my kid under that,” said Jennifer Margolis.

The Gable Funeral Home sits in the middle of the Montavilla neighborhood. It’s been here since the late 1920s, when most people were buried at death.

But now, 40 percent of people nationally request cremation.

Last year, Gable was sold to a national funeral home operator called StoneMor. A spokesman told me they continued a plan already in the works, to install an incinerator for cremations.

“We’ve had to change to continue to serve our customers,” said Regional Manager Kevin Mueller. 

But some parents in the neighborhood don’t like what’s coming out of the incinerator’s smokestack. In early September, they shot video of black smoke coming from the stack and posted it on YouTube for everyone to see.

“I’ve seen it some mornings yeah. Its dark and ugly sometimes when they’re burning,” said Margolis.

But Mueller, the company spokesman, said the company has not been found in violation of any clean air standards by the state. He said the DEQ permit allowed up to six minutes of black smoke to leave the stack each hour and that “we have only seconds,” he said.

An Oregon Department of Environmental Quality spokesman confirmed the company has no violations but added that the DEQ sent inspectors to the company twice after complaints and the appearance of the black smoke video.

The Portland School District also hired a firm to test soil at the school but has not received the results.

Still, some in the neighborhood think it’s a bunch of fuss about nothing.

MaryJane Wilt is a counselor who lives and works directly across the street from the funeral home.

“I have no problem with the crematorium, I have never smelled, seen, heard, anything untoward coming from it and I don’t mind it being there. I have no problem with it,” she said.

A neighborhood association meeting was held Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Montavilla Methodist Church at 232 SE 80th Ave. to talk about the cremation issue.

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