The scientific name for this water-based process is alkaline hydrolysis. It is the same process that occurs as part of nature's course when a body is laid to rest in the soil. We use a combination of water flow, temperature, and alkalinity to accelerate nature's process.
What Actually Happens with Aquamation?
The Aquamation process is performed after any viewing or visitation services the family wishes to have. When it’s time for the process, the individual body is respectfully placed in a stainless steel vessel. Alkali is added to the process based on individual characteristics (weight, sex, embalming status), and the vessel fills with water. The solution of 95% water and 5% alkali is heated to 200-300°F, and gently circulated for the entire length of the process.
At the end of the process, all material is broken down to the smallest building blocks; there is no DNA or RNA remaining. The sterile process water is released for recycling (our bodies are approximately 65% water to begin with), and the vessel performs a fresh water rinse for the equipment and remains. When the operator opens the door, only the inorganic bone minerals remain. These minerals are processed into powder and returned to the family in an urn. This final processing step is the same process that is followed with flame cremation. Many families hold a celebration of life or gathering when the loved one’s remains are returned to the family’s care.
Why is this considered an environmentally friendly choice?
With Aquamation there are no direct emissions of harmful greenhouse gases or mercury into the atmosphere. This process does not burn any fossil fuels. It is very energy efficient - greater than 90% energy savings compared to flame cremation, with 1/10th of the carbon footprint. Because Aquamation uses electricity, it will move into the future as our society improves infrastructure for cleaner energy sources – like wind, water, and solar energy.
What is the impact of the water usage?
Very low. The Aquamation process uses less water than a single household uses in one day (source: watr.usgs.gov). This includes all of the water used for the process, along with the clean water rinsing of the final remains and vessel.
What happens to the water?
The water is returned to the ecosystem via the normal wastewater treatment facility, just as all funeral homes in the United States, Canada, and many other parts of the world do during the embalming process. The Aquamation process produces a completely sterile solution of amino acids, sugars, nutrients, salts, and soap in a water solution. These are the byproducts of natural decomposition.