Cemetery ordinance draws large crowd at meeting

At least 40 people packed the Bibb County Commission board room Tuesday night as many came in protest and support of an ordinance regulating cemeteries.

Beth Collins, CEO of Summerland Natural Cemetery, asked the commission to repeal an ordinance it passed in November that prohibits her from building a “green” cemetery in east Bibb County near the Twiggs County line.

The ordinance, which is intended to protect the health and safety of residents, forbids placing graves within 1,000 feet of any known well, aquifer, lake or stream that state environmental officials determine needs a stream buffer.

It also requires bodies to be buried in leak-proof caskets.

The green cemetery would use natural burial practices in which bodies are not treated with chemicals and are buried in a biodegradable coffin or shroud.

“We need this ordinance repealed as soon as possible or I’m afraid our only response will be litigation,” Collins said.

Residents of east Bibb and Twiggs counties at the meeting applauded the commissioners’ decision and urged them not to repeal. The residents fear possible groundwater and soil contamination from the cemetery.

Cemetery officials said residents and commissioners are misinformed about the possibility of groundwater contamination.

Bibb Chairman Sam Hart, who took office last week, said he would talk to commissioners about their decision, but he didn’t think they would change their minds.