SILVER SPRING, Md. - Montgomery County officials may move forward with a plan to create what looks to be the county’s first fully "Green" cemetery, which would mean people can only be buried with biodegradable materials.
The proposed environmentally friendly burial ground is called "Reflection Park" and would be located in upper Silver Spring, at 16621 New Hampshire Avenue.
The co-founder of the non-profit behind "Reflection Park" told FOX 5 DC what helped seed this idea was his father’s belief that when we die, our bodies go back into the earth they came from.
"So when he died in 2012, he had what you might call a ‘conventional burial.’ His body was buried inside a concrete liner in the ground. And it just struck me as not quite consistent entirely with what he believed," said Basil Eldadah with Remembrance Life Inc.
"It’s kind of a surprise to me because I haven’t heard anything about it," said a nearby resident, Joe Seeley, who also asked, "Does it impact water? Does it impact streams?"
Another neighbor, Spence Ball, told FOX 5, "I don’t really know yet. Generally I’m in favor of this sort of thing."
Eldadah told FOX 5 the plan is to have around 40 acres for "Reflection Park" but only a little less than a third of the property would be dedicated to these environmentally friendly burials. The site would also include untouched land and trails for the community to use.
"We envision this natural space where families can have a more natural and dignified burial for their loved-ones, but we also see it as place where families and visitors can come and just enjoy the grounds, hike the trails that we plan on having that wind through the grounds – to just come and reflect," he added.
The site is supposed to be non-denominational.
People would be buried either in a shroud or biodegradable casket without any embalmment, no metals on the person, no concrete liners, cement vaults or pieces of wood that are not biodegradable.
The site does drain into the lower Patuxent River and Rocky George Watershed. First reported in the "Bethesda Beat," it is noted in the Montgomery Parks Planning report: "There is no evidence to date that such practices contaminate groundwater. This is likely due to the natural filtering capabilities of soil and mandatory setbacks from water sources."
A county planning department spokesperson told FOX 5 water testing was very important and explained via email that the test "had to show adequate filtration of drainage between the depth of burials and the observed water table under the Property." We’re told this was reviewed and approved.
The actual graves will be four feet deep.
Searching online, FOX 5 found some "green" cemeteries in Virginia, including one in Clark County. There’s a number of hybrid cemeteries (offering green services) listed in Maryland and D.C.
Eldadah said cremations release carbon dioxide into the environment but that they will provide space for cremated remains to be buried at "Reflection Park."
There’s a planning meeting set for Thursday and a final hearing for the end of the month.
Eldadah said they are still working out plans but hope to open in a year and given official approval. He also said the cost of the "green" burial would be less than half the cost of an average burial in Maryland. Reservations can be made on their website.