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Section 1: Air Pollution Control Requirements

Overview of Air Pollution Control in New York

Historically, the control of air pollutants released from combustion processes that are integral to our society has focused on the knowledge that soot and particulate emissions are a human health hazard causing damage to the lungs. While combustion processes at large power generating and industrial plants can impact air quality on a regional and national scale, smaller sources such as cremation units can have significant impacts on local air quality. As a result, New York State regulates crematory operations to provide for a reasonable degree of control of air emissions and protection of local air quality. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is responsible for regulating air emissions from human and animal crematories. The NYSDEC has nine regional offices across the state that monitor these facilities and enforce the emission control requirements.

Regulation of Crematory Operations

Crematories in New York State are regulated by the NYSDEC to ensure that the air emissions from these facilities meet state and federal air pollution control requirements. Regulated pollutants from cremation units include particulates, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide. It is very important for crematory operators to understand the air pollution control requirements and their obligations in operating the cremation unit. Essentially, these requirements consist of obtaining a registration or permit from the NYSDEC and meeting established equipment design and operating requirements. Non-compliance with these requirements can cause local air quality problems and possibly result in fines or other enforcement action by the NYSDEC.

Cremation units are subject to a series of NYSDEC air pollution control regulations in Chapter 6 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations (6 NYCRR). The first is 6 NYCRR Part 200 of the air regulations that contains essential terms and definitions that are used in many different regulations. 6 NYCRR Part 201 contains the permitting and registration requirements for stationary sources of air pollution like cremation units, as opposed to mobile sources such as automobiles. 6 NYCRR Part 202 covers emissions or stack testing requirements and 6 NYCRR Part 211 contains the general nuisance provision that prohibits emissions of air contaminants to the outdoor atmosphere in either quantity, characteristic or duration that would unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property. Finally, 6 NYCRR Subpart Part 219-4 of the incineration regulation establishes the specific emission control and operating requirements for human and animal crematories installed on or after January 1, 1989. Human and animal crematories installed prior to this date are subject to the requirements of 6 NYCRR Subpart 219-5 or 219-6.

Are crematory operators required to receive training and certification?

NYSDEC requires that every crematory must be operated under the on-site supervision of a person certified through NYSDEC's Crematory Operator Training Program and that all operators be trained on the proper operation and maintenance of the cremation equipment, operating permit requirements and associated stack emissions.

NYSDEC specifically requires that:

  • Every crematory, subject to this regulation, must be operated under the on-site direction of a person possessing NYSDEC Crematory Operator Certification; and
  • No person may operate a crematory subject to this regulation unless that person possesses a NYSDEC Crematory Operator Certification or is certified in writing by the holder of a NYSDEC Crematory Operator Certification relative to the proper operation and maintenance of the facility's equipment; of the facility's environmental permit conditions AND the impact of the plant's operation on emissions.

Please Note: The New York State Non-for-Profit Corporation Law [Chapter 579 section 1517(j) enacted in 2006] requires all operators be certified in crematory operations. The Crematory Regulations added the requirement for Cremation Certification Courses [19 NYCRR Part 204 promulgated under emergency rule making in 2007] to include 6 NYCRR Part 219-4.

The NYSDEC Crematory Operator Training Program - Subpart 219-4 meets this requirement.

Operator certifications will be issued by NYSDEC after the successful completion of the NYSDEC's Crematory Operator Training Program. Certifications must be renewed every five years.

When you are inspected by NYSDEC staff, upon request, you are required to provide Crematory Operator Certificate(s) issued by the NYSDEC.

Crematory Emission Standards

The emission control requirements for cremation units installed prior to January 1, 1989 are regulated under Subpart 219-5. Unless the unit is located in New York City, Nassau County and Westchester County, then they are regulated under Subpart 219-6. Any unit installed on or after January 1, 1989 is regulated under Subpart 219-4.

NYCRR Subpart 219-5 & 219-6: Older Crematories

Emission control requirements for cremation units installed prior to January 1, 1989 are regulated under Subpart 219-5 or 219-6 depending on the county where they are located. This rule also applied to various types of incinerators before new standards were developed by NYSDEC for each major category of waste incineration in the late 1980's. These old crematories must meet particulate emission limits established on a pound per hour sliding scale basis tied to the hourly charging rate. Opacity (smoke) limits are higher (20%) compared to those found in Subpart 219-4.

These requirements should be outlined in the facility's State Facility Permit. SBEAP staff can help you review and confirm that your cremation unit is meeting the appropriate standards.

6 NYCRR Subpart 219-4: Newer Crematories

Emission control requirements for crematories, installed on or after January 1, 1989, are contained in Subpart 219-4 of the NYSDEC air regulations. The following discussion should provide most operators with adequate information and a good understanding of the key requirements of this emission control regulation.

Who does this regulation apply to?

Subpart 219-4 applies to all cremation units that were installed or modified after January 1, 1989 used for the cremation of human and animal bodies, body parts, and for the incineration of associated animal bedding. For the sake of simplicity and clarity, this chapter will focus exclusively on cremation of human bodies.

What Pollutant is regulated?

Particulate matter (PM) is a term used for very small solid and/or liquid particles found in the atmosphere that range in size from 0.005 to 500 micrometers or microns (µm). Particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter are known as "fine" particles; those larger than 2.5 microns are known as "coarse" particles.

The size of the particle mainly determines where in the respiratory tract the particle will come to rest when inhaled. Larger particles are generally filtered in the nose and throat and do not cause problems, but particulate matter smaller than about 10 microns, referred to as PM-10, can settle in the bronchi and lungs. If small enough, some particles will be absorbed into the blood stream.

How small is PM2.5? A human hair is 60 um diameter, PM10 is 10 um diameter, PM2.5 is 2.5um diameter

The effects of inhaling particulate matter have been widely studied in humans and include:

  • increased respiratory distress such as coughing and difficulty breathing;
  • decreased lung function which may cause aggravated asthma and chronic bronchitis;
  • cardiovascular problems; and
  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease

People most affected by particle pollution exposure are children, older adults, or those with heart or lung diseases. More information about PM pollution and its effect on human health can be found on EPA's website: http://epa.gov/pm/health.html.

While many natural phenomenons, such as volcano eruptions, forest fires and soil erosion caused by wind, emit particulate matter directly into the atmosphere, particulate emissions generated by the cremation process are the main focus of this regulation.

Particulates are generated during the cremation and combustion processes from incomplete fuel combustion of the charged remains, meaning that the exhaust gases contain some solids and liquids that did not finish burning. Combustion is improved by keeping temperature, air input and burn rate at optimum levels.

Particulate matter emitted through the exhaust flow is measured as a concentration, the weight of particulates emitted in a given volume of air (cubic feet) exhausted. Because particulate matter is so small in size, it cannot be measured in pounds, but instead is measured in grains.

One pound equals 7,000 grains

The NYSDEC limits particulate emissions to the outdoor atmosphere from any emission source located in a crematory facility to 0.08 grains per dry standard cubic foot of flue gas (corrected to seven percent oxygen). So you can see that the limit is a very low number.

Particulate emissions generated by combustion processes are effectively controlled by proper design and operation of the process equipment resulting in complete combustion of the charged material with minimal emissions.

Does my cremation unit have to meet certain design requirements?

Yes. Controlling the temperature and exhaust gas flow rate within the combustion chamber is the primary means of effectively processing the cremation or charge and achieving low emissions during the processing. The cremation unit must be properly designed to accomplish this. Units that are no longer operating within their design specifications may need to be overhauled and tested to confirm that they are complying with the applicable emission limits.

NYSDEC requires the furnace design be capable of a residence time for combustion gases of at least one second at no less than 1,800°F. The residence time refers to how long the gases take to travel through the final combustion zone. This chamber or zone must be large enough to provide for good mixing of gases, air and heat for thorough combustion. Thorough combustion will reduce the amount of particulates (ash and unburned gases) in the exhaust.

For a multi-chamber cremation unit or retort, these parameters must be met after the combustion gases pass through the primary combustion chamber and then on through a secondary chamber. The temperature of the secondary chamber is maintained and regulated by the afterburner. The secondary chamber is designed for additional combustion to reduce the amount of particulates in the exhaust and minimize visible emissions. In such units, the primary combustion chamber temperature must be maintained at no less than 1,400°F.

Dual chamber retorts are now the industry standard and are designed to routinely achieve the complete burning of combustion gases leaving the primary chamber.

The second chamber typically provides the space (required to meet the one second residence time) and temperature (provided by the afterburner) to complete the burning of the combustion gases and further reduce particulate emissions and opacity.

Auxiliary burners in the cremation unit must be designed to provide the required combustion chamber temperatures by means of automatic modulating controls.

Are there operating requirements too?

Yes indeed. The cremation unit operator is required to monitor the exhaust stack during processing to determine that exhaust gases/smoke does not exceed visible emissions limits. Exhaust smoke is an indication of improper combustion and excessive particulate emissions. Because particles in the atmosphere absorb and scatter light, they obscure line of sight and reduce visibility. Smaller particles have more exposed surface area which contributes to visibility problems, or haziness. These visible emissions are measured in percent opacity.

Opacity is frequently used to estimate the effect of air pollution on visibility and is defined as "the degree to which the transmission of light is reduced or the degree to which visibility of a background as viewed through the diameter of a plume is reduced".

Simply stated, opacity is defined as the degree to which emissions, other than water, reduce the transmission of light and obscure the view of an object in the background.

Picture of buildings with smog clouds

0% opacity means that 100% of the background is transmitted & you see all of the background through the exhaust.

100% opacity means that 0% of the background is transmitted & you cannot see anything through the exhaust.

Subpart 219-4 states that no operator may cause or allow emissions to the outdoor atmosphere having a six-minute average opacity of 10 percent or greater from any cremation unit.

NYSDEC emphasizes that the opacity limit is based on a six-minute average, giving the operator time to make adjustments to the combustion controls if needed to stop excess smoke. If the cremation unit is equipped with an opacity monitoring device, it will certainly be beneficial to the operator in their efforts to consistently comply with this requirement. Many cremation units are equipped with an opacity monitor on the stack, affording the operator the ability to respond quickly to minor upsets during the processing of a difficult cremation unit charge without having to do a visual check outside of the facility. Periodic calibration and maintenance of the opacity monitor should be part of routine inspection and maintenance programs.

There are several technologies that are used to determine opacity by detecting particulates in the exhaust air flow. It is important to know what type of opacity monitor is installed on your cremation unit(s).

The most common opacity monitors are transmissometers that measure the transmission of light through a medium such as dust or smoke. The components mount on either side of the stack or duct. A beam of light is projected from one side through the exhaust flow and detected by a sensor. If the projected light is obstructed, due to the presence of smoke/particulates, the energy of the light will be reduced. Opacity is determined by comparing the energy levels of the detected light to that of the projected light, expressed as percent.

If the cremation unit is not equipped with an opacity monitoring device, visual observations are required to monitor the exhaust for opacity. The operator will need to become more familiar with the methods of checking opacity by eye. In order to get a reliable and consistent opacity reading on stack emissions, the observer should stand with the sun to their back and observe the stack from an angle such that the smoke plume is seen rising against a contrasting background. This will help the observer better estimate how the smoke is obscuring the background and interfering with light transmission.

Illustration of the proper way to read opacity.

Look through the smoke as it exhausts from the stack at a distance and with the sun behind you. If you're too close, you will look through more smoke and erroneously read the opacity too high.

The most important operating parameters to monitor in hopes of avoiding and/or responding to excess smoke are opacity and combustion temperature. Typically, excessive smoke can be attributed to the cremation unit operating at too high a temperature causing the exhaust gases to pass through the combustion zone too quickly and unevenly. This can happen with charges having a high fuel or Btu value (i.e. coated highly polished wooden caskets or deceased human bodies with a high fat content) that tend to burn very hot once ignited.

How do I know if my emissions are meeting standards on a regular basis?

Most modern cremation units are equipped with sophisticated temperature monitoring devices and chart recorders to ensure that good combustion conditions are maintained during the processing cycle. Recording equipment must be operated daily (or whenever the unit is in operation) and show the combustion temperature(s) of the cremation cycle. Operators must keep a file of printouts/chart recordings on site and make sure the printouts/charts are dated.

When you are inspected by NYSDEC staff, upon request, you are required to provide access to chart recordings and monitoring documentation.

Such monitoring is essential for continuous control of combustion conditions and help to ensure that excess emissions are avoided to the maximum extent practicable. In the future, facilities that operate older or outdated units may need to update or retrofit their cremation unit by installing a more reliable or new temperature monitoring device, that will enable continuous monitoring and control of combustion temperature in order to meet the particulate emission limits.

NYSDEC requires that crematory facility operators must install, operate and maintain instruments for continuous monitoring and recording of the following parameters in accordance with manufacturer's instructions:

(1) Primary combustion chamber exit temperature (1400ºF)
(2) Secondary (or last) combustion chamber exit temperature (1800ºF)

Operators are required to maintain the design temperature at all times when the cremator unit is operating.

Crematory operators should be very familiar with error messages and process indicator gauges/displays that need to be monitored to confirm proper performance of the equipment. For example, a faulty thermocouple will most likely be indicated by an error message on the control board display panel. Operators should also periodically check to see that the combustion chamber temperature readouts displayed on the gauges /display panel agrees with the reading being recorded by the chart recorder pen. If not, adjust the chart recorder pen to align with the temperature readout as needed.

Are certain materials/wastes prohibited?

Yes. Subpart 219-4 specifically prohibits the following wastes from being processed in a cremation unit:

  • Municipal solid waste
  • Medical/Infectious waste (other than pathological waste) in excess of five percent of the total permitted hourly charging rate may not be burned in a cremation unit.
  • Radioactive waste
  • Hazardous waste

Additional materials should also be avoided as they can damage the cremation unit and emit harmful fumes.

  • Fiberglass and Plastic Containers/Caskets
  • Narcotics
  • Contact the manufacturer for additional materials to avoid.

Will my stack have to be tested to show compliance with standards?

Crematory facilities with cremation units that were installed after January 1989 are required to demonstrate compliance with the particulate emission limit and the design standards either through:

  • actual testing of stack gases/emissions or
  • providing a stack test report for an identical (same manufacturer and model) cremation unit tested in New York.

Cremation unit manufacturers and vendors should be able to provide such test data to avoid each unit having to be tested individually. This is the typical practice in New York and many other states in the nation.

Part 202-2 of the state air pollution control regulations does however give the NYSDEC authority to require stack testing on a new or existing emission source when there is cause to doubt representative stack test data or where other circumstances warrant testing to determine if emission standards are being met. Such circumstances might include for instance, frequent violations of opacity limits even though the designed retention time and combustion temperatures appear to be in compliance with requirements, or where there is reason to suspect that the particulate emission limits are not being met due to the age of the cremation unit.

In the rare situation where actual stack testing is required by NYSDEC, the crematory owner must provide a test protocol consisting of a detailed description of test methods and equipment, including the configuration of breeching, stack and test port locations. This test protocol must be submitted to the NYSDEC Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer for approval at least 30 days prior to stack testing, followed by the stack test results in a report within 60 days after completion of the testing.

All stack tests must be witnessed by a NYSDEC Air Quality representative. Results of any stack test done in the absence of an approved protocol, or which is not witnessed will, in most instances, not be accepted.

NYSDEC Air Registration/Permit Program

The NYSDEC requires that all crematories have either an Air Facility Registration (Registration) or State Facility Permit (Permit) to install and operate a cremation unit. Registrations and Permits help the NYSDEC to ensure that air quality regulations are being properly followed and that the applicant has become familiar with the appropriate requirements. Registrations and permits are issued by each of the nine NYSDEC Regional Offices located around the state.

NYSDEC Regional Office staff administer and enforce the air pollution regulations for specific counties as shown below.

NYSDEC Regional Map

NYSDEC Regional Map

Region 1: Nassau & Suffolk counties

Region 2: Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens & Staten Island counties

Region 3: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster & Westchester counties

Region 4: Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Schoharie & Schenectady counties

Region 5: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren & Washington counties

Region 6: Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida & St. Lawrence counties

Region 7: Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego, Tioga & Tompkins counties

Region 8: Chemung, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne & Yates counties

Region 9: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara & Wyoming counties

Part 201 of the NYSDEC air regulations require facility owners to apply for and obtain a Permit or Registration before installing and operating a new emission source, such as a cremation unit. Air Facility Registration applications must be sent to the NYSDEC Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer (RAPCE) while State Facility Permit applications must be submitted to the NYSDEC Regional Permit Administrator. Contact information for each of the Regional Offices can be found in Section 8. Once a Permit or Registration has been issued, the RAPCE must be notified in writing and at least 10 days prior to operation commencement.

Existing facilities operating without a Permit or Registration should submit an application and pursue the necessary approval as soon as possible after becoming aware of this requirement. If an existing facility already has a Permit/Registration and is planning to add or replace a cremation unit, the Permit/Registration will need to be amended to reflect the new equipment.

Crematory facility owners and operators should contact the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program (SBEAP), located at the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, for free and confidential help if they need to apply for a registration or permit. In addition to preparing the necessary forms, SBEAP staff will explain the state emission standards for crematories and help you understand how to stay in compliance with these requirements.

If you have a Permit or Registration issued by the NYSDEC, or by a county agency on behalf of the NYSDEC, make sure that you keep it on site and are complying with any conditions of the permit and Subpart 219-4 requirements.

When you are inspected by NYSDEC staff, upon request, you are required to provide a copy of your Permit or Registration.

If you are not sure about your status, call the SBEAP toll-free at 1-800-780-7227 and let us help you determine if you have a permit or registration, or need to apply for one.

The registration application will require, at minimum, the following basic information:

  • the manufacturer and model number of the cremator unit(s)
  • manufacturer's specifications for the cremation unit to demonstrate that it is designed to meet NYSDEC emission control standards (i.e., temperature and exhaust gas retention time)
  • stack information
  • the location of the unit within the facility
  • a location map
  • stack test data, if necessary

Whether you choose to have the SBEAP prepare the application or choose to have a consultant or engineer prepare it for you is your choice. Remember, the SBEAP will do it free of charge. The application forms are available on the NYSDEC (www.dec.ny.gov) and SBEAP (www.nysefc.org, under Programs) websites, as well as from the NYSDEC Regional Office.

Annual Regulatory Fees

The NYSDEC requires that facilities with air emission sources pay an annual regulatory fee to cover a portion of the costs of the department's regulatory functions.

NYSDEC charges a fee of $160.00 for a process air contamination sources having an annual emission rate less than twenty-five tons per year of any one of the following: total particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, total volatile organic compounds or other specific air contaminants. It would be quite rare for any modern cremation unit to have particulate emissions exceeding twenty five tons per year.

Each cremation unit at a facility is considered an air contamination source, therefore a typical crematory facility will be charged a fee of $160.00 times the number of cremation units in operation. The NYSDEC typically mails out the annual fee bills during the late summer months for the previous year of operation.

Does the NYSDEC require any reporting on a regular schedule?

Yes, all cremation units must be inspected annually and a report filed with the NYSDEC. Refer to SECTION 2 of the Training Manual.