Burials restricted at Thetford Cemetery due to pollution fears

Thetford cemetery.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017

Thetford cemetery. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Burials are being restricted at a major town cemetery because of fears over pollution levels in the soil.

Residents trying to bury their loved ones at Thetford Cemetery could be turned away because of a two burials per month restriction, which has been extended indefinitely due to concerns about nitrate levels in the soil.

It is feared the chemicals could affect the groundwater in the new extension to the cemetery, which would break Environment Agency (EA) regulations.

Councillor Sylvia Armes, chairman of Thetford Town Council's cemetery committee, said: 'It is a very complex problem. We cannot prove where they [the nitrates] are coming from.

'It is a very difficult situation for all. We have found it really stressful. It is a very difficult time for the people who are approaching us through the undertakers.

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'We try to be as sensitive as we can but of course we have to adhere to the rules and regulations.'

Lydia Turner, company director at Thetford and District Funeral Services, said: 'It is really not helpful because you cannot expect families to wait for two to three months.

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'There is going to come a time when it will be a problem if it's not sorted.

'We are concerned for the families.

'I do understand where the council are coming from. There is not a lot they can do.'

Nitrate is one of the most common groundwater pollutants. It can come from widespread sources and is a particular problem in this region.

The EA says excessive concentrations of nitrate in drinking water are associated with adverse health effects.

The town council has taken a number of steps to reduce the nitrate levels.

It has suspended non-parishioner burials in the new cemetery and has planted water-loving trees throughout the new part of the cemetery.

It is also regularly monitoring the water and it has been recommended to spread the burials throughout the site.

Burials in the older part of the cemetery and cremations are not affected.

Thetford Town Council is planning to organise a meeting with the EA about the situation.

What do you think? Email rebecca.murphy@archant.co.uk

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