You heard that correct, You can cremate with water. The process goes by many names including; Alkaline Hydrolysis, water cremation, flameless cremation, etc. Whatever you prefer to call the process is up to you. For the purpose of this blog we will use the term Aquamation. Although a rather new option in human disposition to the death care profession, Aquamation is not new to the animal world. Aquamation was developed in the 1800's as a way to process animal carcasses into plant food. By the 1900's scientists began using this watery disposal option to dispose of animals that died while testing various products. Fast forward to the early 2000's and we see Aquamation being used in medical schools to dispose of the cadavers used for medical training. A US based company called Bio-Response Solutions designed the first aquamation system for humans in 2005. Today nearly one half of these great United States has legalized Aquamation and is offering it as a method of disposition for your dearly departed.
I am often asked “What is the difference between cremation and aquamation?” Let's dive into this question from an environmental side. Modern Aquamation for human reduction is done in a machine roughly the size and shape as a standard cremator. Other than the similar look of the two disposition machines, the process is very different. A standard crematory is designed such that the dead are placed on a combustible tray and slid into a
brick refractory inside the cremator. Fire, heat and forced air are blown onto the dead which reduces the remains to charred skeletal remains. These skeletal remains are swept out of the cremator, cooled and pulverized down to a gritty, powdery consistency. This powdery consistency of cremated remains is what people commonly refer to as ashes. The process of cremation uses about 23 gallons of Natural gas to completely cremate an average sized human being. According to a Huffing Post article, an average 3 hour cremation can release over 600 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The process of Aquamation is very different. With Aquamation the dead are placed on a tray that has been extended from the machine. Once the tray is slid back into the machine the door is closed and sealed. The machine is then filled with 95% warm water and about a 5% alkaline solution made of potassium hydroxide and sodium. This gentle bath circles the dead to reduce the remains down to the skeletal remains. At the conclusion of the aquamation bath, the skeletal remains are removed from the machine, dried and processed
in the same way as flame-based cremated remains would be. Because this water process is so gentle, about 20% more skeletal remains are recovered to be processed, placed in the urn and returned to the next of kin. An amazing side effect to choosing aquamation is that the implanted metal devices in the dead come out of the aquamation process as clean as the day they were implanted into the person during life. These valuable metals can be recycled to be used as something else in the future. The left over water, called effluent, is a sterile, nutrient rich, DNA & disease free water solution that can be placed on land as a fertilizer or sent to the local water treatment plant. Other than some electricity to operate the machine, no natural gas is used and no carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere with aquamation.
I took a tour once with what I would call a rather conservative leaning pastor. I was surprised to hear him say at the end of the tour, “I have always disliked cremation because the process sounded so violent and seemed to resemble where we preach about not ending up.” He then followed up that statement by saying “you know we are made up of about % water, we are born into water, baptized in water, require and water to live. It only makes sense that we should use water to dispose or our remains when we die.”
Feel free to contact us if you would like to know more about Aquamation.