Newspaper: Ohio Doesn't Inspect Independent Crematories

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Like Georgia, Ohio does not inspect independent crematories, although a law requiring inspections has been on the books for more than three years, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Since 1998, Ohio law has required crematories to be licensed and inspected, but it has yet to happen, The Columbus Dispatch said.

Such oversight likely will take on added urgency after the discovery over the weekend that a Georgia crematory left scores of bodies to decay in woods and in storage sheds.

The operator of the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Ga. -- Ray Brent Marsh (pictured, above) -- has been charged with 16 felony counts of theft by deception.

Georgia does not require inspections at crematories that are not run by funeral homes. Right now, Ohio is operating in similar fashion.

"We only have two inspectors for all our funeral homes, and they will do crematories when we license them," said Ann Cunningham, director of the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, the agency in charge of enforcing the law. "That's what we're doing now."

Licensing applications are going out to crematories this month, she said.

Ronald Van Atta, a Newark funeral director who is one of seven members of the state board, told the Dispatch it has taken three years to work out rules for licensing and inspections that meet the Ohio crematory law's requirements.

"We passed the law and got the rules," he said. "We just haven't gotten to the licensing part of it yet."

Ohio has about 50 crematories, most of them connected with funeral homes or cemeteries, Cunningham said.

The board's two inspectors examine crematories associated with funeral homes, Van Atta said, and the Ohio Department of Commerce inspects those at cemeteries.

But there is a handful of crematories in Ohio that, like the Tri-State Crematory in Georgia, work under contract with funeral homes and thus are not yet subject to inspections, he said.

Crematories, Van Atta said, helped push for the 1998 state law.

"They were doing right," he said, "and their concern was that the way it was set up, someone would buy a (furnace) and set it up in a barn."

That hasn't happened, Cunningham said. But that didn't stop Ohioans from worrying on Monday.

Families flooded phone lines to the Ohio Cremation and Memorial Society, where Steve Plaso, who operates a crematory, tried to reassure callers that the remains of their loved ones would not be mistreated. The society is inspected regularly, he said, because it is associated with a funeral home.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)