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Opposition surrounds crematory

Residents are rallying against a crematory owner's plans to build smokestacks that would pump human and animal dust into the atmosphere.

Rebecca Yebba applied in October for an air pollution permit from the county's Environmental Protection Commission. She wants to build the Cremation Center of Tampa Bay in the property she purchased in July at 3900 N Florida Ave.

Yebba's other business, Honor Thy Pet Cremation Services in Brandon, sends bodies elsewhere to be cremated.

If approved, the center will be one of four crematories in Hillsborough County.

Arlington Heights resident John Defiore lives 250 feet from the proposed business.

"I don't want to be sitting out on my front porch and have whatever coming out of a smoke- stack," he said. "It's not healthy."

Defiore has sent letters to every City Council member, the mayor, city land development officials and the Environmental Protection Commission to stop Yebba from getting the permit.

The neighborhood's reaction caused the EPC's director, Richard Garrity, to send the business a letter stating that the agency is "declaring the proposed construction of the crematories a project of heightened public concern."

That means the crematory must provide additional notice to neighbors about its plans.

Yebba did not return a telephone message left by the St. Petersburg Times.

The commission plans to meet with affected neighbors within the next two months, and the City Council will be briefed on the issue with a staff report next Thursday.

Neighbors are most concerned about possible emission of mercury released from people's dental work.

The commission has asked the proposed crematory to provide estimates of how much mercury would be emitted and how bodies would be transported to the crematory "so we don't deal with odor issues," said Diana Lee, the commission's chief of air permitting.

Lee said the bodies would be incinerated at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ashes would shoot high out of the stacks at 1,460 cubic feet per minute, she said.

"When you mix it up with everything else, you should not really realize the effects of that unless they have some sort of malfunction," she said. "It may not necessarily blow right into people's neighborhoods."

With the amount of residential development in the county, having cremation centers in neighborhoods may be inevitable, Lee said.

"Our county is growing by leaps and bounds," she said.

"You're going to come into problems where we have a lot of facilities that may end up operating next door to neighborhoods. As long as they meet the rules, all the regulations, they get a state operation permit."

The smoke that comes out of the stacks can't be dark. If smoke is visible, the crematory would be in violation, Lee said.

Defiore doesn't want to get to that point. "We want to stop it now," he said.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.

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