THERE are fears of a backlog of funerals after Gwent’s only crematorium started operating a reduced service fromnow until March next year while essential work is carried out.

Gwent Crematorium in Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran, is holding its last service at 1pm each day to install equipment that will remove mercury from its cremations in order to meet Environment Agency targets.

This will see the number of cremations throughout the period halved.

Gwent Crematorium manager Paul Dundon said: “We are mindful that restricting service times will be an inconvenience to people and are very sorry to any family this may affect, but unfortunately because of le gislation we have no choice.

“The quantities of mercury used in cremations are minimal, but it is a poisonous substance and needs to be dealt with.

“Mercury is collected in activated charcoal and we will be employing a specialist waste disposal firm to deal with it.

No doubt they will recycle the mercury, but I’m not entirely sure what will happen to it.

“Crematoria are required to remove at least 50 per cent of mercury from the output of the industrial process, but Gwent Crematorium will be going a step further and removing mercury from all of its cremations.

“We will still be doing eight services a day. Generally we can do up to 15 services but that never seems to be the case in the summer months.

“I understand it could cause a problem later in the year but we will be doing our best to ensure families can have a funeral on a date of their choosing.”

James Tovey, of Tovey Bros funeral directors, the largest user of Gwent Crematorium, said: “Effectively there will be a near-50 per cent reduction in the number of cremations each day.

“This makes things difficult for everyone really.

“It has the potential to cause delays for families and they may even choose to go to crematoria elsewhere.”

Michael Ryan, of MichaelG Ryan Son and Daughters funeral directors, said: “There’s no doubt it will cause a problem and as funeral directors we are likely to have a backlog, but it’s no fault of Gwent Crematorium, it has to be done.Thornhill Crematorium (Cardiff) is being very supportive, but naturally families are going to be upset about having to travel so far.”

Rules aim to limit mercury pollution

STRICT rules for crematoria to limit mercury pollution caused when tooth fillings are vaporised were announced in 2005.

The industry was told mercury filtering equipment must be fitted at crematoria by 2012 to halve emissions.

Exposure to the metal is linked to damage to the brain, nervous system and fertility, with crematoria responsible for 16 per cent of the UK’s mercury pollution.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Delays are a concern

THE decision to cut operating hours at Gwent’s only crematorium for the next nine months may well have been unavoidable.

But, in our view, it will inevitably lead to delays in funerals. And that is a concern.

Funeral directors are already expressing fears that they will face having to cope with a backlog of funerals as the number of services at Gwent Crematorium is drastically cut.

From dealing with 15 services a day, the Croescyeiliog crematorium will now be operating at 50 per cent capacity.

Effectively, the crematorium is going on to half-day working, with services stopping at 1pm every day between now and next March.

The manager says he has had no choice but take such drastic action in order to allow the work needed to comply with new legislation aimed at limiting mercury pollution.

He is confident that disruption will be minimal.

We hope he is right.

For every family organising a funeral for a loved one, the prospect of any delay will only compound their distress.

We realise the work is essential and that, when complete, Gwent Crematorium will more than satisfy the new environmental legislation.

But we do not wish to see families facing the prospect of lengthy delays.

Nor do we want to see them facing having to travel to crematoria elsewhere in order for funerals to take place.