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  • Writer's pictureDona Capara

Scattering Ashes and the EPA - Why Do I Need To File? And Why You Should.

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

scattering ashes and the epa, ash scattering ceremony, burial at sea

You’re researching ash scattering because your loved one’s request was to to be buried at sea; but now you’re reading different articles about filing requirements with the EPA. What started as a simple idea to gather family and friends on board a vessel for a memorial at sea, suddenly seems so complicated. Don’t fret, it’s not complicated at all. Below are the regulations you should be acquainted with but I’ll tell you why it’s a good idea to report the burial at sea, regulations aside.

Traditional ground burial or placing cremated remains in a columbarium provides for a permanent place of rest. Whether you chose to visit the cemetery or not, you know where your loved one's final resting place is. Since this isn’t the case with scattering ashes at sea the only reference to the site of internment is the latitude and longitude which your captain can provide you with. The EPA makes it really simple to report online or by mail with very basic information along with the recorded

Latitude and Longitude. Consider your filing a last tribute, a permanent location for your records and for other family members.

Having the Latitude and Longitude can also allow you to go back to the same exact location if you wanted to revisit the site, or as in many cases, release the ashes of another family member.

You can follow the link to the EPA Form for Burial at Sea.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the EPA representative for the State / Region you plan to have the memorial service.

Region 1 (CT,ME,MA,NH,RI,VT and10 tribal nations)

Ann Rodney: 617-918-1538,

Region 2 (NJ,NY,Puerto Rico,U.S.Virgin Islands,& 8 tribal nations)

Patricia Pechko: 212-637-3796,

Region 3 (DE,DC,MD,PA,VA& WV)

Sherilyn Lau: 215-814-2786,

Region 4 (AL,FL,GA,KY,MS,NC,SC & 6tribes)

Gary Collins: 404-562-9395,

Region 6 (AR,LA,NM,OK,TX & 66 tribes)

Michael Daniel: 214-665-8374,

Region 9 (AZ,CA,HI,NV,148 tribal nations, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Guam)

Allan Ota: 415-972-3476,

Region 10 (AK, WA, ID, OR and 271 native tribes)

Chris Meade: 907-586-7622,

Washington and Oregon

Bridgette Lohrman: 503-326-4006,

The EPA Rules and Regulations:

Burial at Sea, Scattering Cremated Remains or Using a Biodegradable Urn all fall under the Environmental Protection Agency Ruling under ocean dumping. I can tell you that hundreds, perhaps thousands of ash scatterings take place in the US annually without being reported to the EPA. Because the filing needs to occur within 30 days after the scattering it’s easy to not follow through if the captain isn’t filing for you. It’s not uncommon to be overwhelmed by the emotions of the day and asking the captain for the coordinates can slip your mind. In most cases the captain will be filing on your behalf, however this is a question you should ask of the captain.

What happens if a sea scattering goes unreported?

In my experience, I do not know of any repercussions, but for the sake of abiding by all applicable laws I feel it’s important to obey and comply. It’s easy enough to file online or by mail. A helpful hint is to print out the EPA Form and bring it with you on your charter. Give the form to your captain upon boarding and he will fill it out for you.

Do I need a permit or special forms?

It is my understanding that no state other than California requires a permit. The EPA has issued a general permit under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) to authorize the burial of human remains at sea. The general permit is published in the federal regulations at 40 CFR 229.1.

The MPRSA general permit authorizes the transportation and burial at sea of non-cremated and cremated human remains in ocean waters under specified conditions. The MPRSA general permit for burial at sea does not require an application or prior notice to EPA. The permit does, however, require EPA notification within 30 days of the burial. Please see our instructions below for more details.

State of California Consumer Affairs - Complying with California Law

Form VS-9 Burial Permit - California Only

The cost to file this permit is $12.00.

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