Second cremation by aquamation facility in state opens in Wilmington

Second cremation by aquamation facility in state opens in Wilmington
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 3:03 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - When it comes to planning a loved one’s funeral, there are traditional burials, cremations, even burials at sea — but there’s a new option that uses water in a different way.

“When you think about it, we’re born through water. Our bodies are made up of 65 percent water,” said owner of Tranquility Cremation by Aquamation Eric Bester. “Aquamation makes sense as far as going out through water.”

There are only two aquamation facilities in North Carolina, both owned by Bester. Tranquility, one of the very few facilities to offer human aquamation along the entire East Coast, recently opened in Wilmington. Despite the service’s scarcity, it’s quickly becoming a popular option for families.

Aquamation uses the same natural process of how a body would break down if it were buried, but what would take decades underground happens in less than a day in an aquamation facility.

“Cremains are more charred, granule remains where the aquamains is truly like flour,” said Bester. “Families--they have a wide range of opportunity to do many different things with one’s remains after the process, whether you want to keep them, place them in an urn, have jewelry made.

The process uses 95 percent water and 5 percent alkali, not acid, to dissolve the body. The amount of alkali used is determined by the person’s weight.

“It’s like a gentle whirlpool bath,” said Bester. “The gentle circulation of the water over our body is what does the work.”

After the process, all that’s left is the skeletal system. That is then broken down into the ashes returned to the person’s family. Bester said 20 percent more of the person’s remains are able to be returned than if they were to go through cremation.

Bester said aquamation is cleaner for the environment than having your loved one embalmed or cremated. Aquamation is a zero-emission process with the water byproduct sent to the water treatment plant. Tranquility had to get a permit from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to discharge the water. The authority investigates what the discharge consists of which is no more than sterile water.

“Far more sterile than if we were at a funeral home and embalming an individual where formaldehyde and blood is discharged through the water treatment facility,” said Bester.

Aquamation is a slower process than cremation, but the outcome for families is nearly the same: a sense of closure after saying goodbye and an urn of ashes to take home.

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