Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Westmoreland pulling plug on backyard burials - Some communities blacklisted, deputy mayor wants parishwide ban

Published:Tuesday | April 16, 2019 | 12:14 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Steve Morris, chief public health inspector for Westmoreland, speaking at the recent monthly meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation.
Steve Morris, chief public health inspector for Westmoreland, speaking at the recent monthly meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation.

WESTERN BUREAU:

With close to 100 requests per month and mounting environmental concerns, the Westmoreland Public Health Services is moving to drive the final nail in the coffin of backyard burials in several communities.

Steve Morris, chief public health inspector for the parish, announced the plan at the recent monthly meeting of Westmoreland Municipal Corporation.

“We are doing almost 100 home burials every month. The 50 [requests] that are here before us have been approved already. We need to look at the numbers that we are getting because last month (March), we had over 80,” said Morris.

“We are proposing that we blacklist some areas from home burials. Those that we have identified so far are Big Bridge, which includes Egypt Gardens and McNeill Land,” Morris said, highlighting two of the parish’s flood-prone areas.

“We have also looked at an area in Broughton because of its morass, and Strathbogie. We are going to blacklist these areas going forward, so whenever we see these applications coming in, they will not be approved.”

Savanna-la-Mar Deputy Mayor Danree Delancy called for a timeline to abolish the system of home burials.

“This whole matter of home burial, I don’t think it is being taken as seriously as it should be. We keep granting approvals for home burials all across the island, and while doing that, in many instances, we are contaminating our water sources,” said Delancy.

“I am suggesting at this time that we, as a local authority, set a timeline when we will stop giving permissions for home burials. In the meantime, we should be educating our residents as to the negatives of home burials and get them in a mind frame to start using public or designated burial areas,” the deputy mayor added, calling for greater focus on the environmental impact and other issues arising from the practice, including the devaluation of lands.

Last month, a Westmoreland family complained to The Gleaner after the remains of several of their ancestors were reportedly dug up by a road construction team and are now unaccounted for. Only one set of remains from the eight graves desecrated has been located, relatives said.