- Studies from overseas suggest that chemicals
from corpses seep from cemeteries and contaminate nearby water.
- However, there is no firm evidence as
to how much this occurs in the UK.
- Now the impact on UK ecosystems is being
examined by a team from the Environment Agency and the British Geological
- Planning agencies looking at applications
to build housing near cemeteries need to consider the extent to which decomposing
bodies contaminate the water supply.
- Contamination directive
- The group aims to guage the effects of
graveyards on water supplies to make sure that local authorities can enforce
a European Union directive concerning the quality of groundwater, which
is due to come into affect next year.
- The team says that a strong base of scientific
knowledge is required to ensure compliance with the directive.
- They have chosen an area close to a disused
medieval cemetery for their study.
- There is unlikely to be much microbiological
contamination from the site because it has been out of use for so long,
but the researchers hope to gain useful clues in the form of chemicals.
- The team removes core samples of the
soil and sends them to laboratories for analysis.
- Pollution risks
- Bob Harris, a member of the investigating
team, said: "Cemeteries are just one of several particular activities
which could give rise to groundwater pollution.
- "To be sure we need to have the
scientific advise and understanding in order to determine whether these
things present a risk or not."
- Mr Harris admitted that people's first
concerns about living close to a cemetery are unlikely to be whether or
not the water is good for their health.
- "We cannot take into account people's
reaction to the fact that graves can be a little spooky," he said.
- "But what we can do is give a little
reassurance about the risks to groundwater pollution and to the users of
that groundwater in terms of whether they may be drinking contaminated
water or not."