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March 07. 2013 12:52AM

'Flush granny' or a better way to cremate?

CONCORD - The House Wednesday preliminarily approved a new method of cremation that supporters say is cheaper and more environmentally sound, but opponents liken to "flushing granny down the sewer."


House Bill 316 would allow the process of alkaline hydrolysis to be used by funeral homes to reduce bodies to bone fragments and a water-potassium hydroxide solution.

The issue has been before lawmakers several times. Legislators allowed the practice in 2006, but when someone wanted to use the process the next year, it was banned. A bill in 2009 attempted to lift the ban, but failed.

Opponents of the bill described in detail what happens to a loved one's remains, saying it destroys the dignity of the deceased.

"We didn't throw mama off the train," said Rep. Donald LeBrun, R-Nashua, "we shouldn't flush granny down the drain.''

But proponents argued it is a process whose time has come; 10 other states have approved the practice.

"What's the big deal?" asked the prime sponsor of HB 316, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester. "If I want to do this with my body after I am gone, what is the big deal?"

He said the bill is about giving people another choice in how their remains are handled after they are gone.

Vaillancourt said the bill has the support of the funeral directors in the state; the only opposition came from the church.

"I'm not talking about morals or ethics," Vaillancourt said. "All I'm talking about is choice."

Rep. Lawrence Kappler, R-Raymond, described the liquid produced from the process as "pea soup" that is flushed down the drain to end up at the local sewer treatment plant.

Rep. Bill Nelson, R-Brookfield, said the bill is about dignity, the dignity of a loved one.

"As a society, we try to treat the remains of human beings with respectful burials or cremation," he said. "This bill takes that away."

But Rep. Laurie Harding, D-Lebanon, argued the technology is much less harmful to the environment, with fewer emissions than traditional cremation.

If there are good regulations and heath protections, she said, there is no reason not to go forward.

The House voted 257-113 to preliminarily approve the bill, which now goes to the Executive Departments and Administration Committee for review before a final vote.


grayno@unionleader.com


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