|5/27/2007, 1:51 p.m. PT
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — Klamath County is looking for ways to improve air quality in an area where wood stoves still contribute to pollution problems that exceed new federal standards.
Environmental and public health officials say compliance with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards on tiny particulates in smoke and exhaust fumes will help keep county residents healthy while also ensuring that new industry and other economic development can continue.
Fewer open burning days for those living in an air quality zone surrounding Klamath Falls, and mandatory replacement of non-certified wood stoves in homes for sale are among the proposed new regulations.
Larry Calkins of the state Department of Environmental Quality said the most common sources of fine particulate matter are wood stoves, outdoor burns, forest fires and other forms of combustion that create carbon ash.
They are the particles most likely to lodge in the lungs and cause breathing problems, according to health officials.
Previously, the EPA permitted up to 65 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter, but that standard changed in 2006 to 35 micrograms.
Klamath County was below the old permitted level, averaging about 50 micrograms, but is above the new level.
The county was out of compliance last year, requiring DEQ to report it to the EPA this fall.
But the county can still take measures to improve air quality and prevent paying state or federal penalties.
Penalties can include a "non-attainment" determination, which means new industry could not move into the county without extensive air-cleaning measures.
"Now's our chance to do it before the hammer drops," said Peter Brewer, an engineer with Jeld-Wen environmental engineering department and member of the air quality advisory committee.
Jim Kenworthy, fire marshal with Klamath County Fire District No. 1, said his district answers about 200 illegal burn calls a year. Those calls do not often require emergency attention and take up district resources.
Dewaine Holster, fire chief with the Chiloquin Fire District, said it was difficult enforcing regulations in his district because the restrictions on open burning depend on weather conditions, which often differ widely across the county.
Information from: Herald and News, http://www.heraldandnews.com