Air board to restrict fireplace use on bad air days

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Air board to restrict fireplace use on bad air days

Postby Wilberforce » Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:54 am

Air board to restrict fireplace use on bad air days
By Denis Cuff
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 07/08/2008 11:03:55 PM PDT

A clash between the public's right to breathe clean air and individuals' rights to burn wood in fireplaces comes
to a showdown today when the Bay Area's air pollution board is expected to ban wood fires on bad air nights.

The rule also would limit the visibility of smoke from chimneys year round in an effort to protect people from
odors, eye irritation, and respiratory problems aggravated by burning of wet wood, plastic or trash.

Adoption of the rule is likely after the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board holds a final public
hearing on one of the district's most contentious proposals in decades.

During 16 public meetings and workshops over 18 months, most speakers have supported the rule to protect
the public from fine soot particles. Soot can irritate lungs and throats and, according to many health studies,
spur asthma attacks and a variety of lung and health problems — even premature death among the elderly.

But some have condemned the rule as an unwarranted invasion in people's freedoms at home.

Air board members said it was time to limit wood-burning fireplaces and stoves.

"We need this rule because some people are getting thick smoke from their neighbors on bad air days, and
when they call us to complain, we basically have no resource. It's legal to burn on the worst air days," said
Mark Ross, a Martinez city councilman on the air pollution board. "If an oil refinery three miles away generated
the complaints (that) we get in some neighborhoods about wood smoke, the public wouldn't tolerate it."

Air quality regulators say they are not banning fireplaces, but barring use of them and wood stoves on Spare
the Air nights in winter when cold, windless weather traps smoke close to the ground and produces unhealthy
air quality. This happened nearly 30 nights in 2006 in the Bay Area.

The air district would rely heavily on public complaints to finger violators. First-time offenders would receive a
written warning. Second-time offenders would be issued $100 tickets they could either pay or avoid by attending
a smoke education class.

A similar penalty would be handed to those who repeatedly violated a new year-round limit on the visibility of
smoke from chimneys on any night. A chimney belching a continuous flow of thick smoke would likely flunk the
test, officials said.

One Sonoma County resident said her family ended up paying $7,000 to install gas stoves in two neighbors'
homes because it was the only way to stop the irritating wood smoke from a fireplace in one house and a
wood stove in the other.

"We had no idea how hard it would be to breath," Lia Gaertner wrote in urging the air board to adopt the smoke
rule. "We understand each citizen's right to have a fire in their fireplace or woodstove, but we think there is
such a high cost in the whole neighborhood's health."

Pollution regulators in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys have adopted rules barring wood burning on bad
air nights.

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Air board to restrict fireplace use on bad air days
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Postby Wilberforce » Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:10 pm

Bay Area air board limits wood fires
By Denis Cuff
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 07/09/2008 01:35:23 PM PDT

Bay Area residents who repeatedly burn wood in fireplaces and stoves on bad air nights may face
a $100 fine starting this winter.

Ending the era of unrestricted indoor wood burning that dates back to the cavemen, the air pollution
board for the Bay Area's nine counties passed a rule Wednesday making it illegal to burn wood on
Spare the Air nights, when unhealthy soot levels are forecasted.

The rule, passed unanimously, also prohibits chimney smoke that exceeds a visibility standard.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will begin enforcement this winter when the weather
gets cold enough to set up temperature inversions that trap smoke near the ground and trigger
Spare the Air nights.

People caught with wood fires on bad air nights initially will be sent a warning letter. Repeat offenders
can be issued $100 tickets, or given the option to attend a smoke education class.

"Voluntary efforts are not enough," Kelly Wee, the air district director of enforcement, told the air board
meeting in San Francisco.

Bay Area air exceeds the federal health standard for fine soot particles some 15-20 nights a year,
Wee said, and wood smoke accounts for about one-third of the particles on those nights.

With some 50 or so air pollution inspectors to monitor 1.2 million fireplaces in the Bay Area, the air
district will rely heavily on public cooperation not to burn on bad air nights, and make complaints
about violators, Wee said.

The air district also will check around to find out if some cities want to authorize their building
department inspectors to assist with enforcement in neighborhoods upset about smoke, said Jack
Broadbent, the air district's chief executive officer.

During a public hearing before the board vote, several doctors, nurses, mothers of asthma patients,
and other clean air advocates said the public needs the rule to protect against fine particle pollution,
which can lead to a variety of lung and heart problems. Several residents said they felt imprisoned
in their home because of neighbors' smoke.

Representatives of the wood stove industry argued unsuccessfully that EPA certified stoves should
be allowed to burn on bad air nights because they emit a small fraction of the soot released by
open hearth fireplaces.

A simple burn or no burn rule is easier to enforce and understand, district officials said.

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Bay Area air board limits wood fires
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