Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg funeral home first in country with alkaline hydrolysis cremation option

ST. PETERSBURG — Some people choose to be buried. Others pick cremation.

But soon there will be another option: alkaline hydrolysis — or chemical cremation — one of a wave of green burial options gaining popularity.

In about two weeks, the Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg will become the first in the country to offer the option to the public, said company president John T. McQueen, a second-generation funeral home director.

As a result, he has gotten requests for interviews from media outlets around the United States and Canada.

Proponents say it is more environmentally friendly and gentler on the deceased. Critics say it is like flushing a loved one down the drain.

"We believe in giving families all the options," McQueen said. "It's not going to be a process for everyone — just like flame cremation. I can give you a long list of people who will say 'Hey, I don't want to be burned up.' "

The process, also known as bio-cremation or flameless cremation, works by placing a body in a pressurized drum that holds up to 400 gallons of water. A chemical is added and heated to 350 degrees. The heated mixture is recirculated through the drum for two to four hours.

When the cycle is complete, soft tissue is dissolved into a soapy, murky liquid, which eventually makes its way into the city's wastewater system.

McQueen said the liquid is sterile and that the body is broken down into amino acids so there are no human remains or DNA. Left behind are bone and metal. The bones are pummeled into a powder and given to the family.

McQueen said the process leaves less of an environmental footprint than traditional burials or cremations.

The process has been two years in the making for the St. Petersburg funeral home. Between the device and construction needed to house equipment, it will cost about $550,000.

The funeral home had to get state approval and obtain the proper city permits.

Among other issues, the city was concerned about the discharge of acids, fats and oils into the system, said St. Petersburg's director of water resources, George Cassady.

Extensive chemical tests have been done, McQueen said. The city said the funeral home has shown that the fluids produced wouldn't violate any established standards.

"We didn't pick sides," Cassady said. "It was simply a matter of did they technically meet our standards."

He added that the city will randomly test the discharge from the funeral home — just like it does with any other business.

Cassady said people have a tendency to be alarmist when something like this is introduced, but all sorts of unseemly stuff already enters the system.

"You have no idea what's already going down the drain," he said.

Times staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at or (727) 893-8804.

Biochemist Sandy Sullivan said new flameless cremations employ “the same chemistry that’s used in nature … it just happens much faster.”


Biochemist Sandy Sullivan said new flameless cremations employ “the same chemistry that’s used in nature … it just happens much faster.”

St. Petersburg funeral home first in country with alkaline hydrolysis cremation option 09/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 11:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst


    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75


    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.