Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies, and the real answers:

Question: Any idea why Asheville Area Alternative Funerals & Cremation Services on Riverside Drive is able to periodically spew clouds of black smoke (made up of I-shudder-to-think-what composition) from its low-lying crematorium smokestack with apparent impunity? At times it settles down on the bike lane, forcing bicyclists (me included) to pant through it! Does this business comply with local air quality rules? Does it have any violations on file?

My answer: Well, if you’re ever cycling through there and start to feel like  death warmed over, now you know why.

Real answer: I stopped by the business Dec. 6, and I can report nothing was coming out of the smokestack. Or out of the employees.

A manager was very polite but declined to talk about the reader’s assertions.

I did check in with Buncombe County, as the Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality Agency is under the county’s purview.

A reader sent in these photos on a recent day when the smoke coming from Asheville Area Alternative Funerals & Cremation Services was particularly heavy and had reached ground level.

County spokeswoman Lillian Govus noted via email that Asheville Area Alternative Funerals “merged with Asheville Mortuary in recent years, and they do have an air permit under the Asheville Mortuary for two crematory incinerators at that location.

“They do have a visible emissions limit of 20 percent opacity that they are allowed to emit for no more than one six-minute period in any one hour,” Govus said. “The facility is required to operate the units following procedures to minimize emissions at all times.”

Govus acknowledged, “There are circumstances where visible emissions do occur, and we investigate these on inspection or in response to a complaint.”

“We plan to follow up in response to this inquiry,” Govus said.

“The last complaint we received was in March of 2022, and we found some visible emissions and a maintenance issue appeared to be involved,” Govus said, referring to the mortuary. “The facility addressed the issue, and we did a follow up inspection with no visible emissions observed. As such, the issue appeared to be resolved.”

The Air Quality Agency does periodically receive complaints, Govus said, and it investigates all of them.

Govus noted that state and local air quality regulations that apply to this facility “are approved by EPA and implemented by the state and local agencies.”

Asheville Area Alternative Funeral & Cremation Services does have a permit that allows for a visible emissions limit of 20 percent opacity for no more than one six-minute period in any one hour // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

As far as violations, the facility has had a few with the local agency.

“Notices of violations have been issued for a late report in 2021, failure to monitor and maintain temperature records in 2014, and failure to follow operating procedures to minimize emissions in 2011 and 2008,” Govus said.

I checked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online database and did not find any current or significant violations for the Riverside Drive cremation facility.

Govus said if residents see excess emissions or other problems, they should call the Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality Agency at 828-250-6777.

Question: For a long time, there were metered spaces on Woodfin Street near the intersection with College Street. It was very convenient to park there to use the Register of Deeds, and occasionally the courthouse. The spaces were full, the city made money, and everyone was happy. Sometime in the last year, the city (I think) took the meters down and turned all of the Woodfin Spaces to permit parking only. Now the spaces are perpetually empty. Why did they do this? Who gets to park there? Can I get a permit? It stays on my mind because I walk past it each day. If you get around to it, you’ll have at least one interested reader.

My answer: I think we all know by now that if everybody is happy with a parking situation in Asheville, that cannot stand.

Real answer: City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller said the Parking Services department converted 10 spaces on Oak Street to permit parking. For the record, Woodfin Street becomes Oak Street right at the tail end before it reaches College Street.

“The intention in doing this was to create more monthly parking options for downtown residents, workers, and others who may benefit from longer-term parking options,” Miller said. “Hourly metered parking spaces remain available for use on College Street and Valley Street; the latter of which is closer to the Register of Deeds Office than Oak Street.”

Overall, Miller said, the city’s strategy is “to provide metered parking in locations where high turnover is beneficial, and to provide on-street permit-parking areas where such turnover may be less necessary.”

The city, on its website, notes that, “On Street permits are available throughout downtown Asheville. Prices may vary by location, and fees are collected at the time of purchase.”

The permits are valid monthly, and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. The website has Oak Street permits listed at $40 a month.

You can find more information on the street parking page, or by contacting Parking Services via email at or by phone at (828) 259-5792.

Good luck!

Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at or (828) 337-0941.

One reply on “Black smoke from crematorium choking cyclists? Metered parking spaces downtown MIA?”

  1. It’s hard to believe that we live in a “progressive” city that allows ANY smoke from the cremation of human bodies! And so near to a Greenway. That is appalling, disgusting and yet another example of the abject failure of city leadership, especially the mayor.

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