NEW MARKET (WATE) – A new body farm has received the green light in East Tennessee. The research being done will be the first of its kind in the world.
The planning commission in Jefferson County approved the idea Wednesday. The move came after some opposition from neighbors who were concerned about bodies in the area.
Currently, other body farms study the way a body decomposes. This one will look at the impact a decomposing body will have on the environment and how to decontaminate situations with casualties.
"The body will be in cages like this one. Some may be under the ground. Some may be on top of the ground," explained forensic expert Art Bohanan. Bohanan, overseeing the project, has worked with law enforcement for 52 years. He'll help manage the farm along with Carson Newman College.
"This will be the first facility of its type in the world that we know of. How do we protect the rescue squad? Most of the time they are the ones who pick up a dead body. How do we keep them more safe, and how do we keep the environment more safe?" he added, explaining the impact of their research.
The idea was approved by the Jefferson County Planning Commission Wednesday night amid controversy. Neighbors were worried about the impact of being so close to the corpses.
"There's no neighbors even close to where the bodies will be," said Tim Seals with Jefferson County's Zoning Department.
Still, leaders came up with some rules. Those rules include fencing, limiting one body to every 2,000 square feet, and regular environmental testing.
"Neighbors, if you are worried about your water, it'll be public record every day at the environmental office at the courthouse," Seals added, about the results of the environmental tests.
Bohanan says the support for this research nationally has been tremendous. It'll make a unique impact on the future of environmental forensics.
"How do we treat the environment? How do we decontaminate the remains? There's no protocol for it," Bohanan said.
One neighbor filed a lawsuit against Jefferson County. She was opposed to the idea. We could not reach her for comment. The county hopes she'll drop the lawsuit, now that the farm's been approved.