Cremation Ash Spreading Over Water — What You Need To Consider

Posted on: 24 June 2015

If one of your beloved family members has recently been cremated, then you may want to memorialize your spouse, parent, or sibling in a special way. Many people decide to spread ashes in a special place, and this may be a great option for both you and your loved one. However, you probably should not just start scattering ashes the day after the funeral ceremony. There are quite a few things you need to take into consideration, especially if you want to spread ashes near a body of water.

Investigate Water Spreading Regulations

Inland Ceremonies

If your loved one enjoyed the open water of the sea or the calming waves of a nearby lake, then it may make sense to spread ashes over the water. However, laws in your state may prevent you from doing so, or you may need to at least acquire a permit before the spreading ceremony.

Laws vary greatly from state to state. For example, in California there are no direct laws in regard to spreading ashes near a lake or river. There are laws that indicate that you need a permit though, if you are spreading ashes on a public property, and this permit can be obtained through the local governing body. Furthermore, you must remove the remains from their urn or container before you spread them, and the spreading ceremony needs to be out of sight of anyone in the area who may be enjoying time at the public space.

In North Carolina, you are able to spread ashes freely on public land as long as it is uninhabited. This means that it is likely safe to spread ashes in a quiet location near a river or lake. However, if the land is a federally owned property, like a national park, then a permit needs to be acquired. If you need a permit for ash spreading, then contact the town hall or the local town clerk to find out how you can go about obtaining the paperwork. If you are unsure if you need a permit, then a quick phone call is your best option as well to find out about the various regulations in your state.

Ocean Spreading

If you intend on releasing ashes into the ocean, then federal laws apply. The laws say that you can release the ashes safely into the water as long as you are three nautical miles out from the edge of the shore. You do not need a permit to do this. You do need to contact the EPA within one month after the service is completed. You can write the agency a letter that states the location of the spreading, the vessel used, the distance from the shore, the approximate depth of the water in the area, and the port where the boat left shore.

Consider the Wind Speed and Direction

After you have figured out whether or not you need permits or other types of paperwork to spread the ashes over a body of water, then you will need to set a date for the ceremony. It is wise to arrange for a more intimate ceremony with a few close family members and some friends. A crowd may garner the attention of a local authority, and your ceremony may be stopped. Since laws vary so widely from state to state, it may not be immediately clear to an authority figure if you can continue with the spreading. This is especially true if your state does not require a permit.

Once you are near the lake, river, or ocean, make sure to check the wind speed and direction. If you do not do this, you may end up with ashes flying over a river. In poorly planned ceremonies, the ashes may even fly back into the faces of the attendants, and this can be quite jarring and upsetting. You can use a small wind sock to gauge the direction of the wind.

Afterwards, make sure the ashes are spread in the same direction as the wind towards the body of water. Hold up your hand to find out if the wind is moving fast or slow. If the wind is fast, then crouch down and release remains one foot or less above the water. If the wind is slow, you can release the ashes from a standing position.

You can also click here for more information.