By Mahealani Richardson | May 11, 2021 at 3:36 PM HST - Updated May 11 at 5:28 PM
More states across the country are legalizing a process called “water cremation,” but in Hawaii it is not allowed and opposed by giants in the funeral industry.
Kawehi Correa is president of Aloha Mortuary, which does traditional cremation and burial services for families, and pushing to bring water cremation ― or akaline hydrolysis ― to the islands. “Akaline hydrolysis is a way that best preserves the bones in its true nature,” said Correa. A large chamber dissolves the body using heated water. “Your loved one will be placed into basically into a water chamber and it’s mostly water and 5% alkaline. Your body naturally decomposes in this matter. It just quickens it up,” said Correa. The bones can be left intact, which advocates say is valued by Native Hawaiians. “Native Hawaiians had a practice that they had where their mana and their power is in their bones,” said Correa.
Steve Labrash, director of the UH Medical School’s Willed Body Program, says water cremation is a greener way to go.
“The carbon footprint of alkaline hydrolysis is much more reduced than we see from cremation or burial,” said Labrash. “I think it’s a very misunderstood process,” he added. But Hawaii’s funeral industry is strongly opposed to legalizing it, saying a bill at the legislature lacked necessary regulations.
“Approximately 300 gallons of water will be going into the sewer system as well as the composting,” said Jay Morford, president of the Hawaii Funeral and Cemetery Association. “You are looking at 1,000 pounds of human compost that will taken out of the facility and placed somewhere on the islands,” he added.
Advocates say akaline hydrolysis is legal in nearly two dozen states, including California and Florida. “They (Hawaii’s funeral industry) are threatened by another option,” said Correa. She believes families have a right to choose how they want to be laid to rest.