Tuesday, June 24, 2008 : 9:00 a.m.

Urban Pollution from Funeral Homes

Margaret Halley, U.S. EPA and Dennis J. McChesney, U.S. EPA Region 2

Facilities embalming human remains, which are located in unsewered areas, often discard embalming waste fluids into on-site septic systems.  Injection of fluids, such as embalming wastes into septic systems, is regulated by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.  The UIC program, which seeks to protect underground sources of drinking water (USDW), regulates the injection of industrial wastes, including embalming wastes.  EPA Region 2’s UIC program examined analytical results from samples from on-site septic systems and cesspools, soils, and groundwater, impacted by embalming wastes in New York State.  Results revealed exceedances of New York State soil cleanup standards and federal drinking water maximum contaminant levels for formaldehyde and phenol.  Results also revealed exceedances of chlorinated solvents.  The data suggest that injected embalming wastes present human health risks if ingested in drinking water.  EPA Region 2 developed an initiative with four goals:  1) achieve compliance with UIC regulations at facilities that inject embalming wastes over USDWs; 2) prioritize compliance for funeral home’s operations; and, 3) sustain compliance through permanent changes.  To date, 61 UIC inspections identified 29 facilities practicing on-site embalming waste fluid injection.  These facilities are sampling their on-site systems and remediating, if appropriate.  Twenty-eight facilities voluntarily ceased injection into their UIC wells prior to inspection, opting to use waterless aspiration. Traditional techniques consume an estimated 120 gallons per embalming.  Use of waterless aspiration reduces the total waste volume per embalming to ≤5 gallons.  Assuming 100 embalmings per year, waste embalming fluids embalming are reduced about 333,500 gallons per year for the 29 facilities that adopted the technology.  Waterless aspiration residuals are managed as medical wastes.

 The work described was performed by officials of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  However, neither this abstract nor the actual presentation has been peer reviewed by EPA

Margaret Halley, U.S. EPA Margaret Halley is an Environmental Scientist and Certified Enforcement Officer at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2. She currently works in the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Ms. Halley has worked in Region 2 for over 20 years, in Construction Grants, the NEPA program, and RCRA hazardous waste compliance. She has extensive experience in reviewing geothermal well applications for authorization by permit or by rule.

Dennis J. McChesney, U.S. EPA Region 2 Dennis McChesney is Chief of the Groundwater Compliance Section at U.S. EPA Region 2.

2008 NGWA Conference on Eastern Regional Ground Water Issues