By KATE LUDLOW
A proposed pet crematorium has local homeowners voicing their concerns over the environmental effects on their Liberty Hill area neighborhood.
An Application for an Air Quality Standards Permit for an Animal Carcass Incinerator was filed recently with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by Cedar Park Veterinarian Shane Daigle, on behalf of Precious Memories Crematory. The facility is set to be built on the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 183 and Overlook Drive, north of Liberty Hill.
Residents of Overlook Drive have taken advantage of TCEQ’s 30-day public comment period to call for a public forum, and raise objections to the proposed facility.
Jim Pomeroy, a resident of Overlook Drive, told TCEQ that “as a home owner that would be within 400 yards of the proposed facility, and having three children under the age of 7, it is of extreme concern to me and my family. At the same time, we understand the importance of allowing businesses and individuals to make decisions that are allowed to them by the law. Based on my research, it’s not clear the affect of animal incerators[sic] on the air quality. Having grown up in Indiana around hog farms and horse slaughter houses, I can only imagine the smell that may eminate[sic] from such a location, but I have no information as to the size of the expected incerator[sic] facility, or the amount of material that can be[sic].”
Another nearby resident, Raechele Adams, said in a phone interview with The Independent, “I am concerned. They put the public notice in The Statesman, and not the Liberty Hill paper (The Independent). It’s also close to the San Gabriel. I’m concerned about air quality issues. The smell and the contamination are our concerns. The people on Overlook Drive, they didn’t know this was going in. I really think this should have been in the Liberty Hill paper. We should have known about that.”
While Daigle says he understands their concerns, he feels that they are unfounded.
“I’m hoping for a public forum, so we can explain this to them. If you’re thinking you will drive by and there will be a smell, that is not correct. TCEQ wouldn’t give us a permit is we weren’t meeting the numerous regulations. Really, a McDonald’s (Restaurant) emits many times more smell than we will, and by that, I mean we will have none,” he said.
Daigle said that a general lack of understanding of the pet cremation business is causing undue concern.
“I think it’s the public’s fear, and an ignorance. I think when this is built, and they see it…they will see a professional building, cosmetically, more so than any other business that could be there. I think they will rather see this than say, an auto parts shop,” he said.
“I’m a realist,” says Daigle. “I would be anxious and worried, and I would want to know. Truth is, this is about as clean an operation as can be. It’s just when you see those words ‘cremation’ and ‘incineration,’ those are morbid, vile words. Your mind goes to the worst.”
Daigle says traffic in the area will be at a minimum.
“This is not open to the public,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to just come in. These are animals that have been humanely euthanized or delivered to an animal hospital. Those animals, by law, have to be cremated. It’s an unfortunate part, the most unfortunate part, of veterinary, but it needs to be done.”
While Daigle was unsure of how much business the crematorium would see, The Independent talked to Laurie LeShaun of Paws of Paradise Pet Crematory in Killeen. Paws of Paradise covers a 100-mile radius from Killeen, and while they offer different services than Precious Memories, including home pickup, LeShaun says they are busy “all day long.”
LeShaun says that neighbors should be at ease.
“There really isn’t a smell. There is a retort that keeps that contained. Think of it this way, think of all the human crematoriums around and there are hundreds of them, and they emit no smell. There is more fat in a human than an animal,” she said.
Daigle says construction will begin on his crematorium upon approval of his permit from TCEQ.
“That’s our time frame. Because of due diligence. I could be building this already, but I’m going through the necessary process,” he said. “Our Matthew Unit (cremation unit) is currently being built in Florida.”
Daigle said Liberty Hill was chosen because of its central location to his intended customer service area.
“We want to go to Waco, Killeen, Copperas Cove. We’ll do it for anybody,” he said.
The public comment period for responses to the permit application ends August 31. More information can be found at www.tceq.state.tx.us.