Local Laws for Distributing Cremains at Sea and Waterways.

Deciding what to do with your loved one’s ashes can be an emotional time for you and your family.

There are various options to choose from when it comes to loved ones cremations.

You can either keep the ashes in a decorative, sealed urn, place them in a small home garden memorial, lay them to rest in a more traditional memorial site, opt to scatter them in a natural setting or scatter them at a special location chosen by you or your loved one.

Another popular option families choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one at sea, or smaller waterways like lakes and rivers. When considering this option, the main question that family members ask is “What are the laws regarding spreading ashes in waterways?”

Firstly, if the waterway is on private property we highly recommend seeking permission from the property owner to scatter the cremains.

You may have heard of the EPA ( Federal Environmental Protection Agency )  three-mile limit for urns that will scatter ashes in the ocean. 

DisclaimerWe want to discuss the 3 mile limit, but we wish to make it clear that we do not offer this information as legal advice. 

Read the information we have shared from the Funeral Consumers Alliance below, and visit the link to their original article on the topic and make your own informed decision. 

We also highly encourage you to contact your own local law enforcement agency/s for an accurate, informed and lawful decision.

What the EPA three-mile law?

The best place to start this discussion is with an article written by the Funeral Consumer Alliance at Funerals.org.

The article is called Scatter Brained. here is the link to read the full article. https://funerals.org/?consumers=scatter-brained-cremation-whats-left.

The author of the article is relaying information received from the Environmental Protection Agency:

After years of trying to track down an EPA spokesperson who could give us the skinny on federal rules, we found an expert willing to talk. Our spokesman – let’s call him Deep Urn – has decades of experience with several EPA regional offices. In exchange for anonymity, he agreed to explain what’s really behind section 229.1 of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency law. To paraphrase, the law says anyone in the U.S. can bury remains (including ashes) at sea so long as they:

  • take the remains three miles out from shore
  • report the burial (or scattering) within a month to the closest EPA office…”

But what about families that stand on the beach and scatter? 

“Are they really in danger of prosecution? 

No. Burials or scatterings that take place within three miles of shore fall under the Clean Water Act, rather than the EPA rules, Deep Urn said.

States, not the Feds, enforce the CWA. He said he’s never heard of any state that pays attention to scattering cremains on the seashore.”

And what about the EPA?

“I don’t care about cremated remains,” he said. “We’re trying to deal with real polluters.”

“He said if you interpreted the laws literally, fishermen could be prosecuted for using bait and allowing it fall off the hook. Obviously, no one is going to do that, he said, and cremated remains are no different.”

What about the reporting requirement?

“I’ve never had private people [report scattering],” he said, “only funeral homes” that offer commercial scattering.

Officials with state and national parks have also confirmed to us they turn a blind eye when families scatter, even if it’s against the rules.

If a funeral home “warns” you about the prohibitions on scattering, it’s probably safe to thank them for their kind concern and go on your merry way.