What You Need to Know About Scattering Ashes at Sea

Ashes from a cremation simply contain harmless minerals and shouldn’t harm the environment. Scattering ashes at sea has become such a common choice for cremated remains in Boston and across the country that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published guidelines to cover this activity. If you are planning an ash scattering for yourself or a loved one, this brief summary can ensure that you remain in compliance with EPA regulations.

What to Know About Scattering Ashes at Sea

Most of the EPA guidelines pertain to an actual burial at sea. This summarizes the regulations for scattering ashes at sea:

  • Ashes can be scattered at any depth, but the scattering must happen at least three nautical miles offshore.
  • Under the EPA’s general permit for burial at sea, the agency does not need prior notification or authorization.
  • The EPA does ask for a notification within 30 days and provides this online form.
  • In some cases, you may be able to apply for an exception to the rules in advance.

Also, anything else that you scatter with the ashes must be biodegradable. For instance, you can scatter real flowers, but you can’t scatter plastic or silk flowers. If you intend to use an urn or any other memorial item, it also needs to be biodegradable and not harmful for the environment.

How Do You Travel Three Miles from Shore to Scatter Ashes?

The EPA offers these suggestions:

  • You can travel with your own boat or any boat you have permission to use.
  • Some boat charter operators specialize in helping with ash scattering or can arrange it.
  • If the scattering is for a veteran or veteran’s spouse, you might be able to make arrangements through the U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard.

The federal government only regulates scattering ashes at sea. It doesn’t cover inland lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water. In this case, state law comes into play. If you wish to scatter ashes in any of these places, you’ll need to contact the Massachusetts Health Department to learn about local rules. If you want to scatter ashes on private property, you do need permission from the property owner.

What You Really Need to Know About Scattering Ashes at Sea

Out of respect for others and your loved one, you should learn about the regulations that govern the practice of scattering ashes before you engage in the practice. For instance, it’s important to ask owners of private property that is not your own if you can use their land for this task. You also don’t want to leave anything in the land or water that isn’t biodegradable or might hurt wildlife. Otherwise, you can certainly use common sense to scatter ashes in a way that respects your loved one and those around you. For simple yet personalized cremation services, contact Boston Cremation today by calling 781.322.0909.

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