By Da Lin

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A huge crematorium has quietly begun operation in east Oakland, despite the belief of area residents that they had stopped the business from opening because of health concerns.

The crematorium near 98th Ave. and the Nimitz Freeway suddenly opened a few months ago.

There’s no signage or business name in front of the building. You would never know this is a crematorium.

Neighboring companies say they found out after seeing a number of funeral home vans and trucks coming in and out.

“Suddenly, they just came up, sneaking in up on us, not letting us know,” said Daisy Salazar, who works across the street from crematorium.

Neighbors and nearby business fought to stop the crematorium in 2011 and 2012 and thought they won the battle.

But over the summer, the Neptune Society started burning bodies after getting a temporary permit from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

The district will decide whether to issue a long-term permit in the next two months.

“If a facility is operating in line with our regulations, then we are obligated to issue a permit,” said Jaime Williams, BAAQMD Director of Engineering.

Neighbors and nearby businesses claim the crematorium will worsen the already bad air pollution in east Oakland.

The facility wants to burn up to 3,600 bodies a year.

“This is the Walmart of crematoriums,” Angela Scott with the group Communities for a Better Environment. “It’s too much, it’s too much for any one community to bear.”

Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan sits on the air quality management district board and wants the district to look at the health impacts before issuing a permit.

Using a graphic she prepared, Kaplan indicated the area where the crematorium is situated is already compromised by bad air. ”This shows that we have the highest pollution levels and the highest cancer risks,” said Kaplan.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods are primarily people of color and minorities who have been disproportionately burdened with many pollution sources in the area.

Having dead bodies near homes is also culturally insensitive for some. Recently, four Asian workers at the business across the street quit their job, saying it is bad feng shui.

“In areas that have more white residents, this would never happen,” said Scott.

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