An Open Letter to Lilburn City Council November 7, 2012
RE: Crematory at 5005 Lawrenceville Hwy
Dear Mayor Crist and Council Members,
On behalf of the residents and children of Lilburn, I am writing to request that you exercise your authority under Georgia State Law, and in accordance with Lilburn City Municipal Code, to compel the owner of a business which is a nuisance to cease and desist operation. It is your legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to protect the people who reside, work and attend school in Lilburn. The citizens of your city, who pay taxes and had a part in electing you to your respective positions, have a right to go about their daily lives without the ongoing pollution from a crematory potentially causing them health problems and devaluing their properties. The children who attend school at Lilburn Middle School have a right to play outside and walk to class without having to be subjected to a host of toxins that can cause neurological damage and aggravate respiratory systems. Visitors to Bryson Park have a right to enjoy the amenities without having to smell noxious odors from the crematory next door. Workers at the Unique Kitchen Flooring and Bath business which shares a building with the crematory, have a right to work in a safe, non-toxic environment.
Crematories emit toxins, including mercury and other heavy metals, cadmium, chromium, lead, arsenic, dioxins/furans, hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, smoke, ash, and odor. (supporting documents here) The crematory operated under the name Colonial Cremation Services is 17 years old, it is not equipped with any kind of filter and has a modified stack - cut short. The building is not owned by the crematory business - which occupies only the back 20 percent or less – a room with inadequate ventilation that is barely large enough for the machine and ingress of a stretcher for the remains. The other 80 percent of the building is used by another business that consists of an office, showroom floor, and an inventory of flammable materials: cabinetry, wood and vinyl flooring, carpet, and a variety of tile, marble, and granite. The employees in closest proximity to the crematory are working in open bays for cutting tile and granite – creating dust which is highly flammable. There are overgrown trees and vegetation hanging over the side of the building close to the smokestack. These are conditions which constitute a fire hazard.
Georgia State Law regarding nuisances defines a nuisance as:
- O.C.G.A. § 41-1-1 … anything that causes hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another and the fact that the act done may otherwise be lawful shall not keep it from being a nuisance.
A public nuisance is:
- § 41-1-2 …one which damages all persons who come within the sphere of its operation, though it may vary in its effects on individuals.
- § 41-2-1 …any nuisance which tends to the immediate annoyance of the public in general, is manifestly injurious to the public health or safety, ... may be abated by order of a judge of the superior court of the county in which venue is proper.
- § 41-2-2 A complaint must be filed by the district attorney, solicitor-general, city attorney, or county attorney on behalf of the public. However, a public nuisance may be abated upon filing of a complaint by any private citizen specially injured.
- § 41-2-5 If the existence of a nuisance is complained of in a county or city of this state, the municipal court of the city, if the nuisance complained of is in the city, shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the question of the existence of such nuisance and, if found to exist, to order its abatement.
- § 41-2-7. Power of counties and municipalities to repair, close, or demolish unfit buildings or structures; health hazards on private property; (a) ... Whenever the governing authority of any county or municipality of this state finds that there exist in such county or municipality dwellings, buildings, or structures which are unfit for human habitation or for commercial, industrial, or business uses due to dilapidation and not in compliance with applicable codes; which have defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents, or other calamities; which lack adequate ventilation, light, or sanitary facilities; or where other conditions exist rendering such dwellings, buildings, or structures unsafe or unsanitary, or dangerous or detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare, or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of such county or municipality, ... power is conferred upon such county or municipality to exercise its police power to repair, close, or demolish the aforesaid dwellings, buildings, or structures in the manner provided in this Code section and Code Sections 41-2-8 through 41-2-17.
The City of Lilburn does, therefore, have the authority to order the crematory operation to stop, under Georgia Law. Furthermore, Lilburn’s own municipal code states that a nuisance must be investigated, and if a nuisance is found to exist the matter is to be placed on the municipal court docket to be heard on the basis of the investigation.
Lilburn Municipal Code (click here) states that the following conditions (among others) may be declared nuisances:
- The generation of smoke or fumes in sufficient amount to cause odor or annoyance to the inhabitants of the city;
(This crematory smokes, and smells. I have witnessed it.)
- The pollution of public water;
(Mercury vapor when released in the atmosphere eventually pollutes water. 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can poison the water in 20-acres of lake)
- All walls, trees and buildings that may endanger persons or property;
(Overgrown trees next to building poses fire hazard)
- Any other condition constituting a nuisance under state law.
Interestingly, Lilburn does not allow incinerators, even in an Industrial Zone. A Crematory is a form of incinerator – by another name.
- C Art. 6, § 603 Solid waste incinerator ... prohibited
Incinerator: A facility with equipment that uses a thermal combustion process to destroy or alter the character or composition of medical waste, sludge, soil, or municipal solid waste.
After researching this matter it is my understanding the manner in which this crematory was approved may not have necessarily violated any laws or ordinances per se, however, I question whether a building inspector’s opinion is acceptable in place of specified allowable uses in the property zoned Commercial Business which is surrounded by mostly residential areas. In 1995 there was no allowance in any zone for crematory; it simply wasn't on the books. In order to allow this crematory business to operate a decision had to be made to overlook the fact that it was not a specified allowed use. It should have been rejected, or if accepted, the zoning would have had to be rewritten to either add it, or allow it with a Special Use Permit or Conditional Use Permit. Any of these actions would have required a public hearing, with adequate time for public notification, in order to allow the public to comment and present opposition. None of these things happened. Instead, on the OPINION that the crematory would be “similar enough to other allowable uses” the council decided to allow this business to start operating at this location. It is unclear whether any effort was made on the part of the council or other city officials to follow up on this business operation to ensure that it began operating properly and maintained best operating practices over the 17 years that it has been there.
In conclusion, I respectfully ask you as public servants to uphold the principles for which you say you stand, to listen to those who offer you input on the betterment of the city for the benefit of its residents and business owners, and to protect their interests and the health and safety of the children who attend Lilburn Middle School and Elementary School. Both schools have an unusually high numbers of special needs students – a population which is especially sensitive to environmental toxins. I am asking you on their behalf to act now to stop this crematory from continuing to poison the air in Lilburn. Failure on your part to act in the best interest of the public would clearly violate the spirit as well as the letter of your obligation to the community.
It’s time to do the RIGHT THING.
Community Awareness Network