Cemetery water table distressing families

Josie Hand never doubted she would be buried with her husband John at Sandgate Cemetery when she died.

What she didn't count on was having to wait for almost a month until the cemetery's water table dropped to a point where the grave could be reopened.

It is hoped her burial can proceed in the Catholic No. 2 section later this week, three weeks after her funeral.

"We don't blame anyone, but we can't lay her to rest until she is buried; it's shameful," daughter Aliesha DeLacy said.

Unless she is buried within a month, her family must choose to have her body embalmed for further storage or cremated, which is against her wishes.

It is one of several cases that have occurred in recent months as a result the cemetery's high water table.

"We have found that the water normally drops at a rate of about three inches (7.62 centimetres) a week," Sandgate Cemetery Trust chairman Peter Owens said yesterday.

"One of the problems we have is that the water is not going down at the same rate as it has in the past."

The Newcastle Herald reported in March that about two-thirds of the 16-hectare cemetery was water-logged.

Above average rainfall over the past 12 months has contributed to the pre-existing problem.

Testing is also under way following concerns that the construction of the inner-city bypass may be affecting the water table.

The Sandgate Cemetery Trust is due to raise the issue with government MPs next week.

Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann, whose electorate takes in the cemetery, said he appreciated the situation was distressing for those affected.

"We know there is a serious problem there, but it's too early to comment about how to fix it until we understand what is causing it," he said.

A Roads and Maritime spokeswoman said water monitoring would continue for the next two to three months.

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