Valley rules could get much tougher on fireplace use

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Valley rules could get much tougher on fireplace use

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Aug 30, 2014 5:58 pm

Valley rules could get much tougher on fireplace use

By Mark Grossi

The Fresno Bee
August 23, 2014

In the heat of August, Valley air authorities are planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas -- and your holiday fires are in jeopardy unless you own the cleanest wood-burning heater available.

Burning in fireplaces and older heaters could be stopped on most winter days if the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District approves a rule change next month.

The change would have a big exception: People who register the latest federally certified wood-burning heaters with the district will be allowed to light up on many days when pollution is beyond the federal health standard.

Out in the neighborhoods, how will authorities know the difference between the cleanest wood-burning device and an older, dirtier one?

District leaders say the cleanest-burning devices send out smoke for a short time when started, but soon stop. Fireplaces and older devices, which create 90% of the pollution problem, keep on smoking.

Expect other issues to surface at the air district board meeting on Sept. 18. Wood-burning rules are controversial. But air district leader Seyed Sadredin says the Valley needs this change.

"There's no way the Valley can meet the federal standard without tightening this rule," he says. "Even with the diesel truck rules coming into play, we need this rule to make the standard by 2019."

Soot from wood burning is considered a major factor in the Valley's particle pollution problem, which ranks among the nation's worst. Officials say the soot can contribute up to 30% of the pollution on the worst winter days, hanging in the moist air around urban neighborhoods.


Health researchers say wood smoke contains dangerous microscopic debris that triggers asthma and other lung ailments. The debris, called PM-2.5, can pass through the lungs into the blood system.

PM-2.5 -- particulate matter 2.5 microns and smaller -- is so small that 30 or 40 of these specks would fit across the width of a human hair.

The tiny pollutants have been linked to heart disease and early mortality. Of the 800 premature Valley deaths blamed on air pollution each year, the overwhelming majority linked to soot, chemicals, droplets and other PM-2.5.

If the proposed rule change is approved, many hundreds of lives would be extended over the next several years, officials said.

More than a decade ago, the district encountered bitter opposition when voluntary guidelines for residential wood-burning changed to mandatory rules with fines. The rules were further tightened six years ago, resulting in more violations and fines. (Residents who have no access to natural gas remain exempt).

Since no-burn days began years ago, many tons of pollution have been removed from the air, officials said. But some residents still consider the rules an intrusion in their lives. On the other side of the issue, others want burning banned completely as a health hazard.

The proposed changes would not allow wood burning from November through February when particle concentrations are forecast at 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air or more.

Over the last six years, the existing strict, no-burn threshold of 30 micrograms has created many weeks of no-burn days. The federal standard is an average of 35 micrograms over a 24-hour period.

The 20-microgram level is expected to double the no-burn days in many counties, including Madera and Merced.

But here's the new wrinkle: The proposal would allow wood burning in the registered, federally certified devices even when PM-2.5 concentrations are up to 65 micrograms -- an old federal threshold dating back to 1997.

Activists say it is a step backward.

"It makes no sense," said Dolores Weller, interim director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, representing 70 community, medical, public health, environmental and environmental justice groups. "I think the district is taking a big chance. It has the potential to erase the benefits we've gained in the past from this rule."

Sadredin responds that the criticism focuses on only one of the proposals. Taken as a whole, the rule changes would reduce pollution by up to 5 tons per day, he said. The estimate relies mostly on the increased no-burn days for fireplaces and older wood-burning devices.

So even if all the cleanest devices were all burned at the same time, he said, a small increase in pollution would amount to a small fraction of the reductions.

To help residents, the district would make $2 million available to encourage replacement of older wood-burning devices, which can cost up to $5,000, officials said. Someone buying a gas insert for a fireplace, for instance, could get up to $1,500.

Low-income residents could qualify for up to $2,500, according to the proposal.

Over the years, the district has provided more than $2 million to help replace 4,000-plus wood-burning heaters, including 323 for low-income residents, officials say.

On the other side of the issue, one business opponent of the new wood-burning proposal says it comes on too strong. The opponent, Duraflame of Stockton, sells manufactured logs that have not been granted an exception to the rules.

Chris Caron, vice president and general manager, said wood burning has decreased among residents in the Valley. Previous versions of the wood-burning rule have raised awareness and resulted in pollution reductions.

"We question whether the stricter rules are necessary," he said. "Fewer people are burning now. Everyone is burning less. Are we putting more emphasis on wood-burning rules because it's an easy target?"

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6316, or @markgrossi on Twitter.

source ... ugher.html
• 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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