Burials in Livingston Parish cemeteries will take on a different look after the Parish Council effectively banned surface-level vaults.
The new regulations, adopted Thursday, require burial vaults to be covered by at least 18 inches of soil. State law already required caskets to be buried beneath at least 2 feet of soil but made an exception for those encased in vaults.
After struggling for months to identify remains and to reinter dozens of caskets and vaults …
The new parish rules arose in response to the August flood, which damaged hundreds of grave sites throughout the state. Livingston officials are still working to identify and reinter numerous caskets and remains.
Burial vaults appear to have borne the brunt of the damage as floodwaters seeped through the vaults' sun-damaged seals and buoyed the caskets inside, popping the top off the entombments and allowing some of the caskets to float away.
The new regulations are meant to limit the damage done by future floods, as well as make it easier to identify and reinter displaced caskets in their rightful place.
The ordinance adds two more pieces of information to the list of identifying data required to be permanently affixed to caskets: the cemetery and burial plot location. The name and date of death of the deceased, as well as the funeral home's name, were already required by state law to be affixed to caskets.
Officials working to figure out who's inside all the caskets washed out of graves during las…
Councilman Jeff Averett, who cast the lone vote against the ordinance, questioned whether the new burial depth for vaults was feasible in areas like the southern part of the parish.
"Down where I live, in a very low-lying area, you dig down a foot, a foot and a half, you're going to hit water," said Averett, a French Settlement resident. "What are we going to do in that situation?"
Councilman Shane Mack, who chairs the ordinance committee that drafted the regulations, said funeral directors who handle Livingston Parish burials had assured him the new rules would not pose a problem.
"It's already a state law that the caskets should be 24 inches soil covered," Mack said. "I'm thinking we're already abiding by that law, and if it was an issue, it should've been brought up before."
Continuing to place vaults at or above ground level would put them at risk of continually floating off or flipping over during floods, Councilman Maurice "Scooter" Keen said. It also exposes them to greater risk of tampering.
"Typically they put (vaults) at ground level because people like the look of it," Council Chairman Tracy Girlinghouse said. "But in reality, it doesn't work well at all."
The new ordinance applies to all new burials in Livingston cemeteries.
Violations of the ordinance will be punishable by a fine of $500.