Crematorium bricks prompt complaints in Central Point

A pile of bone-white crematorium bricks and ash dumped in a field behind Conger-Morris Funeral Home in Central Point has appalled neighbors and prompted a police inquiry.

"It's disgusting," said Robert Pendrey, who lives a few hundred feet from the mortuary. "My grandkids came home with some of the bricks."

Central Point police first received a report Thursday of the brick pile in a field next to Cupp Drive near the corner of Highway 99. On Tuesday, the mortuary cleaned up the bricks and other debris that included a mound of tree branches.

"All I can attest to is there are no human remains," said Jim Zuber, who runs the oven and loaded up the bricks and debris into a truck. "There is nothing hazardous about this material."

Central Point police investigated the bricks but couldn't make a determination about the ashen debris.

"Even if you find ashes, it's impossible to tell if they're human ashes with the naked eye," said Detective Jarod Pomeroy. "I don't believe any kind of crime was committed here."

Despite assurances from the funeral home that there was no human ash in the pile, neighbors shook their heads in disbelief.

"I had my mom cremated, so I know what human ash looks like," said Cathy Bailey. "Whether this is legal or illegal, there should be some kind of ethical rule."

She said that dumping the bricks in an open field shows a disrespect for the community.

Bob Neff, co-owner of Conger-Morris, said he plans to apologize to neighbors for dumping the bricks, but provided an explanation for ashen debris mixed in with the bricks.

"That's the chips off the bricks," he said.

The used brick is from an afterburner that gets rid of any remaining smoke or smell from the main chamber in the oven, Neff said.

"Those bricks never touched the body," he said.

This isn't the first time neighbors have complained about the mortuary.

In 2008, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality conducted an investigation because black smoke had been pouring out the chimney of the crematorium. Neighbors said ash rained down on the neighborhood.

Conger-Morris officials then said an afterburner malfunctioned, causing emissions from the exhaust pipe to exceed limits on three occasions in a three-month period.

— Damian Mann

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