Wisconsin Senate approves bill to dissolve dead bodies, dump them in sewer

Alkaline hydrolysis, or ‘water cremation,’ which involves liquifying the human body and dumping the remains into the sewage system, is already approved in 20 states.

MADISON, Wisconsin, May 13, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Wisconsin senators approved a bill earlier this week allowing dead bodies to be dissolved in a chemical bath and disposed like sewage.

The bill, Senate Bill 228, authorizes a practice called alkaline hydrolysis, or “water cremation,” which liquifies the human body using a mixture of water, heat, and chemical agents, leaving only bones behind. The liquid is then dumped into the sewage system or boiled off, and bones can be crushed and deposited in an urn.

The Republican-led Senate passed the legislation without debate on Tuesday over the objection of the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin. 

“Catholic teaching is centered on the life and dignity of the human person because each person is created in the image and likeness of God,” Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, wrote to the senate health committee. “The heart, mind, flesh, and bones of a human person are all elements of a unique creation, down to the DNA, which must be honored even after death.” 

“Our concern is that with alkaline hydrolysis, remains are washed into a wastewater system as though the body created by God never existed,” Vercauteren added. “Wastewater does not honor the sacredness of the body, nor does it allow the grieving to honor the dead after disposition.”

Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, who sponsored SB 228, argued for the measure as a means to promote “consumer choice.” At a hearing for the bill, he said that “Wisconsin funeral directors are receiving more and more requests for flameless or water cremation.” “I believe in allowing consumers choices. And if a consumer chooses flameless cremation, I would like to empower Wisconsin funeral directors the means to fulfill that choice,” Testin said.

Catholic leaders have sternly rejected that reasoning. “Respect and reverence for human bodies must not be sacrificed for a cheaper, quicker disposition,” the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops said two years ago, after attempts to authorize alkaline hydrolysis were introduced in the Lone Star State. 

“We must treat the remains of all human beings, no matter how long they lived or how they died, with dignity, charity, and respect. Chemical digestion of the human body fails to follow this simple principle,” the bishops said, likening the practice to dumping aborted babies down drains. 

Clergymen across the United States have similarly spoken out against “water cremation” and other “alternative” disposition methods, including in MissouriOhio, and Washington. Around 20 states nevertheless have approved alkaline hydrolysis in recent years. 

According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the practice involves a pressurized vat that typically can hold around 100 gallons of liquid. Deceased people placed in the chamber can be heated at up to 302 degrees and bathed in lye, an industrial chemical agent used as a drain cleaner, to induce rapid decomposition. 

The full process of alkaline hydrolysis takes between three to 16 hours, ultimately producing a “sterile” liquid devoid of tissue and DNA. “In some cases, the water is diverted and used for fertilizer because of the potassium and sodium content,” CANA said. 

Proponents of alkaline hydrolysis claim that it is “greener” than traditional cremation, with fewer carbon emissions, arguments that the Wisconsin Catholic Conference has dismissed as well. “The practice can use anywhere from 100 to 300 gallons of water and can influence pH levels in the water supply,” Vercauteren said. “We question whether a process that alters the chemical composition of large amounts of clean water … is good stewardship.”

The Catholic Church emphasizes burial of bodies but has softened its stance on traditional cremation since the 1960s, permitting cremation “unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” Human remains must be buried in cemeteries, entombed in a mausoleum, or inurned, and may not be scattered, the Church holds.

Dead bodies found at Walmart: A list

A growing number of people across the country are dying in Walmart parking lots.

It is not that the parking lots are unsafe. In fact, it is the relative safety of the well-lit and busy lots — combined with a welcoming corporate policy — that has drawn more people like Unger to call the Walmart parking lots home, if only temporarily.

And where people live, they also die.

They include those who are homeless, truckers, immigrants, drug-addled, suicidal or ill – all whose bodies are found nationwide in cars, vans and other vehicles in the parking lots of the retail giant. It is the last stop, one that can go unnoticed amid the daily crush of shoppers searching for deals, sometimes focused on the rattle of carts instead of their crowded surroundings.

Special report: Dead bodies found at Walmart is a phenomenon. Here’s why it’s happening

More: Why do so many people die in Walmart parking lots?

Across the nation, the stories bear similar refrains:

• In California, a woman missing for months turned up dead. Investigators in the February 2016 case said the woman’s body remained in the car, parked at the retailer, for up to three months.

• In San Angelo, Texas, a body was found in a parked truck at Walmart, 5501 Sherwood Way, on Jan. 16, 2018. Police at the scene did not indicate foul play, according to a report from sanangelolive.com.

• In Pittsburgh, Joshua Nord, 32, of Sharpsburg was found Jan. 17, 2018, in a car in a Walmart parking lot in Frazer. According to a report from triblive.com, “Frazer police Chief Terry Kuhns said Wal-Mart usually checks its parking lot, but inclement weather during that week likely delayed the check. Nord was wanted on an assault warrant by Sharpsburg police and a Frazer officer searching for Nord and his vehicle found it in the parking lot.”

Homeless people can no longer stay overnight in RVs, vans and cars at Walmart parking lots in the Mid-Willamette Valley after stores threatened to tow vehicles lingering past business hours. ANNA REED / Statesman Journal

• In Virginia, a body was found Feb. 10, 2018, in a parking lot at the Pounding Mill Walmart in Tazewell County. There was no foul play suspected, according to Maj. Harold Heatley of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office in a report on wvva.com.

• In Florida, the body of Donald Ruddick, 81, of Oakville was found in a camper in a North Naples Walmart parking lot on Feb. 11, 2018. The camper was parked outside the Walmart on Juliet Boulevard, off Immokalee Road just west of Interstate 75. According to a report in the Naples Daily News, detectives did not think the death was suspicious. The camper was attached to a 2005 Mercury Grand Marquis.

• Also in Florida, a Walmart employee walking the parking aisles Feb. 22, 2018, at a Tarpon Springs store, reported a strong odor. Officers arrived and found an unidentified body. Police suspected suicide.

• In California, a body was found inside a burned motorhome March 27, 2018, at an Oceanside Walmart parking lot. According to a report on 10news.com, “firefighters responded to a vehicle fully engulfed in flames at Walmart Supercenter, 3405 Marron Road.”

• In Ohio, police said a 59-year-old man found April 17, 2018, in a pickup truck at an Airport Thruway Walmart, died of natural causes. The body was in the truck, parked on the side of the retail store since April 8, authorities report.