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Grave flood worry

Saturday, 20th July, 2013

By By Erica Visser

Around 400 graves at the Broken Hill Cemetery are under water and now City Council faces the tough decision on whether to make a special exception for one family.

According to Council, the entire Catholic K-1 section of the Rakow Street cemetery, located at the back of the block, has flooded due to rising water levels.

“The area is historically known to have a high water table,” a Council spokesman said.

“During times of drought this water table level drops but when we receive good soaking rain as we have over the last three years it recharges the underground water and raises the level of the water table.”

A former local couple, Guido and Vincenzina Dall’Armi, wrote to Council to waive almost $1,500 in exhumation fees of their infant daughter, who was buried in the flooded area.

“Our daughter Tania passed away aged 24 days on November 8, 1970,” their letter read.

“Since this time, our family has been made aware of problems with the water table ... and find this to be quite distressing to know that our child is buried in an area of the cemetery that has been known to have high levels of water within graves, which have at times forced Council to close this section.”

The couple said that they faced funeral director costs of around $3,900 as well as the Council exhumation fees.

Council also took into account that they faced additional mental anguish after finding out that the South Australian Government kept their infant’s tissue samples for testing; a fact the family had only just become aware of.

The family now hoped to bury all of their daughter’s remains together in Adelaide.

Council will consider the request to waiver the exhumation fee at a Council meeting on Wednesday.

The calculated costs were four hours of labour worth almost $1,400 plus $100 in expenses for safety equipment for Council employees.

Most councillors were in support of waiving the fees during committee discussions this week, but Councillor Christine Adams was concerned about the possible impact of the decision.

“It’s a very sensitive situation and I have great sympathy for the family,” Clr Adams said.

“It is the family’s choice to follow through with this action but I am concerned that if Council waives the fees for one, it needs to look at waiving fees for others that possibly want the same consideration.

“We possibly are passing something that could create a big problem for Council at a time where we’ve passed an increase of rates and a lot of people are finding it difficult to pay that increase.”

Councillor Jim Richards said that councillors were letting their decision be influenced by the emotion of the issue, however that was okay.

“These people, they lost their child and this is sort of dragging it all back up for them again,” he said.

“Money is money, but I think people are more important than money, especially in a special case like this.

“Potentially we’re opening up a can of worms, but everything needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“There’s two roles when you’re on Council, it’s a business but it’s also about representing residents morale and lifestyle.

“It doesn’t hurt to think like a human being in this situation.

“I’m not really up to speed on how cemeteries work, but I’m sure this happens in a lot of other local government areas as well.”

Council’s spokesman said that there had been just four local exhumations in the past decade, but these could be requested at any time.

He said that any similar requests would be dealt with on their “own merits”.

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