Ballard-Sunder Funeral Home

Ballard-Sunder Funeral Home in downtown Jordan.

A public hearing will be held by the Jordan Planning Commission Tuesday night regarding the potential addition of alkaline hydrolysis services at Ballard-Sunder Funeral & Cremation in Jordan.

The purpose of the meeting is to accept public input on a request to amend the funeral home’s conditional use permit to allow the alkaline service, which has been promoted by the industry as a “green alternative” to cremation.

The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Jordan City Council Chambers. Any interested persons may appear at the hearing to present their input.

Alkaline hydrolysis is a legal practice developed by Mayo Clinic that reduces a body to micro-molecules using water, alkaline chemicals, heat and sometimes pressure. The intended result is an accelerated natural decomposition by using environmentally friendly chemicals that don’t produce toxic gas or air pollutants.

The process takes two to three hours and reduces the body to bone fragment and a fluid called effluent remains, which is made of salts, sugars, amino acids and peptides. Effluent remains can be discharged into waste water. Mercury from dental fillings is contained and recycled instead of vaporized.

Mercury was at the center of a controversy in 2011 when Ballard-Sunder added a crematory to the Jordan facility. A heated debate broke out between City Hall and a coalition of citizens named the Jordan Community Action Group over whether or not the council legally issued Ballard-Sunder a conditional use permit to allow the crematory.

The JCAG, concerned that mercury and toxic emissions made downtown Jordan an unsafe location for the crematory, filed lawsuits against the city and state to stop the crematory. A Scott County judge initially ruled in the group’s favor, concluding that “funeral home” and “crematory” were not identical uses in the city’s zoning ordinance, which only listed “funeral home” at the time.

The city council ultimately voted to amend the zoning ordinance to include crematory use, but then-mayor Pete Ewals — who was issued a restraining order that summer after allegedly assaulting funeral home owner Mark Ballard — refused to sign the ordinance for two months. The city once again returned to court, with a judge ruling that Ewals had to sign the ordinance by Dec. 19, 2011.

Ewals signed the ordinance that day and the issue was largely put to rest. Whether or not those who opposed the crematory would be satisfied with an alkaline hydrolysis process remains to be seen. The Jordan Independent will provide coverage of the matter as it develops.

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