Contamination possible in GA

BY SUSAN KIM | NOBLE, GA | February 17, 2002


Well contamination may be possible in this rural Georgia town where officials have made the gruesome discovery of more than 100 corpses in and around a local crematory.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Agency has begun testing well water from the area, and there could be other health hazards as dozens of decomposing bodies are removed from a wooded area.

Corpses have been found in storage sheds and in the woods behind Tri-State Cemetery in Noble, some 25 miles south of Chattanooga, TN. Officials said they expect to find some 200 bodies.

Gov. Roy Barnes declared a state of emergency and visited Noble Sunday afternoon to meet with about 100 people who believed their loved ones were in the crematory.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) reported that there are 729 crematories in Georgia but only two inspectors. GEMA also reported that only crematories that deal directly with the public have to be inspected. Tri-State was never inspected because it worked only with funeral homes.

Officials were requesting federal assistance and equipment to help process the remains. Investigators said they believe the crematory had neglected the corpses for up to 15 years. A morgue has been set up on site.

The American Red Cross set up service centers to help families process paperwork necessary to identify bodies. Several local dentists were making dental records available, and local funeral homes were offering to cremate bodies for free.

Many residents in small town reported they are undergoing an emotional and spiritual crisis as they discover their loved ones are not at peace.

The crematory operator was charged with five counts of theft by deception -- a felony -- for taking payment for services he didn't perform.


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