A proposed cemetery for members of the Bosniak Islamic Cultural Center was voted down for the second time Monday night, this time by the West Pennsboro Township Board of Supervisors.Do I have to tell you that Bosniaks are Muslim?
The vote came after more than two hours of at-times impassioned comments from the about 120 residents who packed the township fire hall and presentations by representatives for the cultural center. Much of the discussion centered around possible contamination of groundwater from the proposed cemetery at 315 McAllister Church Road, and township Supervisor Donald Agar cited health concerns in recommending denial of the plan.
Many of the residents who spoke expressed concern about groundwater contamination, particularly given the amount of residents in the area that use well water. The center follows the Islamic custom of burying bodies without a casket.
Attorney Kurt Williams of Salzmann Hughes, representing the center, said that legally, this is a “pretty straightforward project” because cemeteries are clearly permitted within the R2 zone in which the property is located. In fact, the center chose the property specifically because they wanted to comply with zoning law, he said.But what of groundwater concerns?
Another pertinent fact. There are several cemeteries near the location of the proposed site. Not to mention truck terminals and trailer parks.
Nevin Mann, President of the Pennsylvania Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, said casketless burials are also popular with the environmentalist “green casket” movement, and there are no health concerns with burying a body directly in the ground, he told The Sentinel earlier on Monday.
Bob Buhrig, director of Mechanicsburg-based Myers-Buhrig funeral home, expressed similar thoughts to The Sentinel.
“From everything that I’ve seen and heard and read, and based on my own expertise, I do not currently perceive any health issues with natural burial when done correctly,” Buhrig said.
Project geologist Doug Cwienk of Camp Hill-based GeoServices Ltd. offered a scientific explanation of the rock features that will prevent pathogens and nitrogen deposits from the body from contaminating water supplies, and described methods the center can use to eliminate any potential concerns.
Mann said there are no state laws regulating the burial of bodies without an enclosed casket. There are some burial regulations enforced by various state agencies, including a requirement that bodies must be placed at least 2 feet within the ground.
Based on an agreement with the West Pennsboro Township’s planning commission, all burials at the proposed cemetery would be at least 5 feet below the ground, center representatives said.
Several neighboring residents, however, said groundwater was not their only problem with the cemetery. They said the cemetery would decrease their property values, and they themselves simply don’t want a cemetery next door.Yes, it's a mind thing: it's a shame there is such a lack of it.
“If I’m standing at my kitchen sink, pouring a glass of water, I’ll be looking directly into where this burial ground is, and it’s a mind thing,” said resident Bill Sweet, whose land borders the property.
Many residents said their concerns had nothing to do with the center’s Islamic religion. However, others did reference the center’s religion, saying it was a “slap in the face” to local veterans or asking that the center follow typical American burial customs.