Research and analysis

Potential groundwater pollutants from cemeteries

This is a review of the processes which act upon the buried human corpse and the potential for groundwater pollution which may result from cemeteries.



We have been burying our dead in the ground for many years. We have also been taking much of our drinking water from the ground for many years. Every year we need to accommodate around 140,000 burials. Our existing cemeteries are fast filling up and applications for new developments are likely to increase. We want to understand the potential risks to groundwater from cemeteries to ensure future sites can be located and managed in an environmentally responsible way. This report is intended to help Environment Agency staff involved in planning applications for cemetries, mangers of cemeteries.

Further information on cemetries and pollution is provided in section 6L of Groundwater protection: principles and practice GP3.