SCAQMD Adopts Balanced Measure Governing Beach Bonfires

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SCAQMD Adopts Balanced Measure Governing Beach Bonfires

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Jul 13, 2013 9:15 pm

SCAQMD Adopts Balanced Measure Governing Beach Bonfires
July 12, 2013

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) today adopted an open burning rule that will better protect public health while preserving the availability of fire pits for recreation at Southland beaches.

Following 2 ½ hours of public testimony, SCAQMD’s Governing Board voted to approve amendments to its Rule 444 – Open Burning. The regulation applies to the estimated 686 fire rings in Orange County and 79 in Los Angeles County.

“This proposal has evoked strong feelings from residents on all sides,” said Barry Wallerstein, SCAQMD’s executive officer.

“We believe this plan will reduce exposure to harmful particulates at beaches and nearby communities while allowing beach fires to continue as a popular Southern California pastime.”

Under the measure, beach bonfires will continue to be allowed in Los Angeles and Orange Counties as long as a city has not made a determination based on state law that smoke from fire pits poses a nuisance.

In addition, effective March 1, 2014, fire pits can remain if:

They are located at least 700 feet from the nearest residence; OR
They are at least 100 feet apart (If a city has 15 or fewer fire pits, they must be separated by at least 50 feet) and
Air quality for fine particulates (PM2.5) in coastal areas is not forecast to exceed 100 on the Air Quality Index. (This is expected to occur infrequently under special meteorological conditions.)

Fire pits at Dockweiler State Beach, Huntington City Beach, and Bolsa Chica State Beach are not expected to be affected by the distance criteria. All 60 of the fire rings in the City of Newport Beach (at Corona Del Mar State Beach and Balboa Beach) would have to be better dispersed and/or moved to another beach in the city to meet the rule’s spacing requirements. In addition, a few dozen fire rings at Huntington State Beach and other beaches would have to be dispersed at greater distances.

Today’s measure also enhances each cities’ local control by requiring removal of fire pits in cities or counties that made a determination based on state law that the fires are causing a nuisance. Such determination would need to be made in a publicly noticed meeting by a vote of the city council or county board of supervisors.

The Board approved a provision specifying that any future SCAQMD actions affecting beach fire pits would be voluntary and not regulatory in nature. It also approved an exemption for fire pits in areas specifically constructed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Friday, SCAQMD also approved issuing a request for bids to design and demonstrate up to 25 low-emission fire rings fueled by sources other than wood such as propane or natural gas. Potential demonstration sites include Big Corona beach and the Balboa Pier area in Newport Beach and state beaches in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

“These clean-fueled fire pits could be the wave of the future, transforming smoky beach environments into more healthy spaces,” Wallerstein said.

SCAQMD also will work cooperatively with local and state agencies to develop outreach programs to help raise awareness of the potential health impacts of wood smoke, and to prevent burning of inappropriate materials in the pits such as chemically treated wood.

Results from air monitoring at area beaches, ongoing since late March, shows that smoke from beach fires is impacting air quality in nearby residential areas. Concentrations were found to be up to 10 times background levels for short periods of time in beach parking areas and up to three times background at nearby residential locations.

The particulate emissions rate per minute from one beach bonfire is equal to that from:

Three average big-rig diesel trucks; or
The secondhand smoke from 800 cigarettes. Wood smoke contains many of the same toxic chemicals as secondhand cigarette smoke.

In addition, particulate emissions from 17 fire rings are equal to an average recent unplanned flaring event at a refinery. Particulate emissions from 30 fire rings are equivalent to that from the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit at a typical Southland refinery. (The FCCU is a major source of particulate emissions at a refinery.) The emissions from 275 fire rings are equal to emissions from the AES power plant at Huntington Beach. Also, one fire pit in one evening emits as much fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) as one big-rig diesel truck driven 564 miles.

Smoke does disperse and is diluted as it travels downwind from a fire pit. An air quality model indicates that the concentration of PM2.5, the key harmful ingredient in wood smoke, decreases by about 98 percent at a distance of 700 feet from a fire pit, SCAQMD officials said. Likewise, requiring a minimum distance of 100 feet between pits will decrease concentrations by 50 percent to 75 percent compared to areas where fire pits are located closer to each other. However, smoke impacts may still occur beyond these buffer zones.

Fine particles in wood smoke contain cancer-causing chemicals as well as common combustion pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. Numerous health studies during wildfires, and in communities where large amounts of wood or other biomass is burned, show that wood smoke causes respiratory irritation and an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory problems. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases and are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.

SCAQMD first considered regulating beach burning earlier this year when the California Coastal Commission considered an application by the City of Newport Beach to remove its fire rings. Coastal Commission staff recommended denial of the application, citing in part SCAQMD’s exemption of beach bonfires from its regulations. Recognizing that wood smoke is harmful, SCAQMD initially proposed a complete ban on beach burning in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Following extensive public interaction including three public consultation meetings, SCAQMD staff revised its proposal to the one detailed above.

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

This page updated: July 12, 2013
URL: ... cision.htm

source ... cision.htm
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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