It seems that “Water Cremation,” aka Alkaline Hydrolysis, is gaining some popularity in some places, like California, where the laws changed to allow for this process to be done.
Basically, a “bath” is prepared for the human body, made from water and lye, inside a pressure vessel and then heated. Everything but the bones dissolve. The procedure takes twice as long as a regular fire cremation.
The Mayo Clinic has been using this method for body disposition for donated bodies, since 2005, but call it “Resomation” a “reductive cremation” process.
I noticed the Mayo Clinic, in their description, skips over what happens with the water, after the process “converts tissue and cells of the human body into a watery solution of micromolecules.” Suffice it to say it gets flushed down the drain.
The marketing so far seems to suggest that this is a “green” alternative to regular cremation.
But is it?
There are a few things that come to my mind about this process:
1. I’d love to see the lab documents that show what exactly was tested for to make the determination that what gets flushed is not harmful to the environment. Past experience has taught me that the devil is in the details. What is omitted from the testing is as revealing as what is being tested for. If the environmental regulations were all they are supposed to be, we would not have polluted streams, rivers, lakes and oceans, or fish on estrogen and psychiatric drugs.
2. Is using fresh water, to dissolve human bodies, the best use of this precious resource? In California, a place with deserts and times of drought?
3. How much electricity or gas does the equipment use and what is the environmental footprint of mining and shipping potash?
There are a couple of years before Water Cremation will become more mainstream in California. Hopefully, we will all come to our senses and rethink this option before then.
In the meantime, green burial certainly seems to be the best, and simplest option available with attention being paid to raising the bar on groundwater protection. Leave a legacy of feeding a forest!