Handling of Human Remains Through Natural Organic Reduction

The Washington State Board of Health (Board) has the authority under RCW 43.20.050(2)(f) to adopt rules and standards for the prevention and control of infectious and noninfectious diseases, including rules governing the receipt and conveyance of remains of deceased persons. Chapter 246-500 WAC is the rule that establishes standards for health and safety measures in the handling of human remains.

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed ESSB 5001 (Chapter 432, Laws 2019), which authorized natural organic reduction (NOR) as a disposition method for human remains. In 2020, the Board updated chapter 246-500 WAC to include NOR as an approved method and added a new subsection, WAC-246-500-055, to establish the requirements that NOR facility operators must meet for testing and analyzing samples to prevent and control any potential health hazards.

WAC 246-500-055 went into effect in January 2021. To date, four facilities have been licensed to conduct NOR in Washington. After the first year of rule implementation, Board staff followed up with NOR facility operators to determine whether rule implementation was successful and if additional guidance was needed. Based on feedback from the operators, staff identified a need for additional rulemaking to clarify the language in WAC-246-500-055. We have created a guidance document that operators can reference to clarify initial testing requirements and the frequency of testing.

On Jan. 31, the Board filed a CR-102 (WSR 23-04-100), Proposed Exception Rulemaking, for WAC 246-500-055. On Feb. 15, the Board filed a CR-102 Continuance (WSR 23-05-109) to provide an updated Zoom Webinar hyperlink for the Board’s March 8 public meeting and rules hearing.  

  • Note: The CR-102 Continuance filed on February 15 has the accurate Zoom Webinar link for the March 8 Board meeting and rules hearing. If you would like to provide verbal comment at the rules hearing, please register using the Zoom Webinar hyperlink listed in the CR-102 Continuance, or the hyperlink listed below. Please do not use the Zoom Webinar hyperlink listed in the CR-102 filed on January 31.

The CR-102 announces to the public that the Board is proposing updating the rule. Proposed edits to the rule include: 

  • Correcting a typographic error in subsection (2)(b) concerning the weight of contaminants in reduced remains
  • Clarifying rule language in subsection (2)(f) related to initial testing requirements

Under RCW 34.05.310(4)(d), the Board may pursue “exception” rulemaking without filing a pre-proposal notice of inquiry (a CR-101) for rules that correct typographical errors or clarify the language of a rule without changing its effect. The Board approved the filing of the CR-102 during its January 9, 2023, meeting.

You may provide your comments on the rule through the following ways:

  1. Submit written comments by emailing Molly Dinardo, Board staff, through February 27, 2023.
  2. Submit written comments through the U.S. Mail to:
       Washington State Board of Health
       PO Box 47990
       ​Olympia, WA 98504-7990

  3. Attend a rules hearing open to the public on March 8, 2023, at 1:30 pm
    1. You may give verbal comments in-person at the physical meeting location at:
      Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
      7273 Linderson Way SW
      Tumwater, WA 98501


    2. You may give verbal comments online by registering for the meeting via Zoom Webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_has7tGYeQ9uKBC9EUwsD9g (this hyperlink was updated on 02/15/23. Please use this hyperlink if you would like to verbal comments virtually on the rule).

Important Information to Know:

  • The rules hearing will be held in-person, at the address listed above, and virtually via Zoom Webinar
  • To give verbal testimony via Zoom Webinar, you must access the meeting using your computer, laptop, or device. Your computer, laptop, or device must have speakers and a microphone.
  • If you’d like to request Spanish interpretation services for the hearing, please contact Melanie Hisaw, Board Staff, at: Melanie.Hisaw@sboh.wa.gov

CR-102 filed on Jan. 31, 2023, as WSR-23-04-100
CR-102 Continuance filed on Feb. 15, 2023, as WSR-23-05-109

Statutory Authority: RCW 43.20.050(2)(f) and RCW 34.05.310(4)(d)

State Board of Health Contact: Molly Dinardo, Health Policy Advisor, 564-669-3455, Molly.Dinardo@sboh.wa.gov