Does Michigan Allow Burials at Sea In the Great Lakes?
In Michigan, lakes become a member of your family. If you live on a Great Lake that love runs deep. It's no wonder that so many people want part of them to live on by joining the waters in the form of ashes scattered by family members.
How to Legally Scatter Ashes in the Great Lakes
The spreading of human ashes, or cremains, is legal in the State of Michigan according to the Environmental Protection Agency's 40 CFR 229.1, so long as:
...such burial shall take place no closer than 3 nautical miles from land.
Michigan doesn't have any laws on the books about the storage or scattering of ashes but it is best to check with local municipalities before doing so in any inland lake, river, or stream. You will be in violation of Federal law if you are caught spreading ashes in the Great Lakes inside 3 nautical miles of the shoreline.
Can You Have a 'Full Body Burial' on a Michigan Great Lake?
Did you know that you could be buried at sea? Even if you've never served on the water, so long as you are 3 nautical miles from the shoreline and follow other stringent guidelines, anyone can be buried in the sea. For instance, if you want an ocean burial in a casket, the EPA has offers this helpful diagram:
Recommended casket preparations to aid rapid, permanent and intact sinking: twenty 2-inch holes, six bands and a total weight of at least 300 pounds.
For the rest of the regulations for burial at sea, click here. Also, keep in mind there are several other legal hurdles to overcome when transporting human remains, be sure to contact local authorities and an attorney if possible before taking any action.
But, wait. Those rules specifically say "sea". The Great Lakes, at last check, were lakes, not oceans. So what's the ruling?
After a very awkward phone call to the U.S. EPA Region 5 in Chicago, asking "Is it legal to bury a body in the Great Lakes", I surprisingly didn't receive an immediate visit from law enforcement, instead, I received this from Macy Pressley, Press Officer in the External Communications Office who stated via email:
Pursuant to 40 CFR 229.1, EPA has authorized the burial of human remains in ocean waters under specified conditions. However, there is no similar authorization to allow burials in the Great Lakes.
So that's a no. Don't ask to be buried in the Great Lakes, but as long as you are 3 miles out, you're welcome to be scattered, or you can buy a bio-degradable urn buoy, which dissolves naturally while dispersing your remains into the water.
If it dissolves like an Alka Seltzer tab, call my lawyer, it's time to adjust the Will!