Resomator used in water cremation.

Meath mortician holds first Irish water cremation

Louise Walsh

The first eco-friendly water cremations in Europe took place in Ireland last week.

Mortician Elizabeth Oakes says she is 'overwhelmed' at the huge number of inquiries she has received about resomation since she opened her Pure Reflections Resomarium in Navan in recent weeks.

Water cremation is an eco-friendly alternative to flame cremation or burial and uses water to return the body to hydrolysed remains otherwise known as ash.

"We have already held three funerals here so far, an English national and two Irish people who requested water cremation before their death," she said.

"We are affiliated with funeral directors all over the country and we have a chapel on site so people can hold their final committal service here. It's totally up to each individual person what they choose.

Resomator used in water cremation.

"We are going to have an open day on site in Navan on 18th November so people can see themselves what happens and demystify the process.

"The coffin doesn't go into the machine, only the body. And we can, according to the wishes of the family, recycle the coffin into presentation boxes for our bespoke ceramic urns.

"Water cremation is a very gentle process which takes about four hours to complete.

"Any prosthetics or pacemakers recovered after the process are like new and completely intact and we hope in time and with the wishes of the families to look into donation of these artificial pieces.

"Aquamation is eco-friendly and uses 95% water mixed with 5% alkaline solution.

“The alkaline, when mixed with water and heat naturally speeds up the decomposition of the body leaving only the bones behind.

Pure Reflections Resomarium in Navan.

"The solution brings the flesh back to its chemical components of amino acids, peptides, sugars and salt and leaves the inorganic matter behind which are the bones.

“The bones are then processed in a cremulator. The families will receive 30% more of their loved ones back after Resomation.

"This is because of the gentle process, all the bones are saved. With flame cremation smaller bones tend to totally disintegrate in the furnace.”

"There are no carbon emissions and the process uses ten times less energy than flame cremation.

"After the resomation process, the liquid by-product undergoes a rigorous treatment to ensure environmental safety.

"We have implemented advanced filtration and purification systems, ensuring that the water released post-resomation undergoes multiple levels of treatment to meet and exceed all regulatory requirements.

"I'm delighted to finally be able to offer this service. Covid-19 delayed the opening because of trying to get parts imported.

"It also wouldn't be possible without grants from Meath Co Council and Meath Leader who shared my vision after I saw this in the US almost 20 years ago.

Mortician Elizabeth Oakes holds first Irish water cremation.

"Back then I was studying a three year degree course in the US when I got a tour of the body donation program at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). They were using resomation at this point because of its environmental benefits.

"It’s a huge honour and privilege to be able to offer this gentle end of life alternative here in Ireland.

"This is the first resomarium in Europe and it is highly regulated. I wanted to get it right so there was a lot of thought and planning in this. Irish Water carried out testing for three years before giving me a licence.

"Already, I'm receiving at least ten enquiries per day, especially from those in end-of-life care who are planning their own funerals."

"I was chatting to a funeral director in the US last week who has both a flame and water crematorium and he said that, when given the choice 95% of families will choose water cremation over flame."

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