state ushers in wood smoke restrictions

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state ushers in wood smoke restrictions

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Nov 01, 2014 2:56 pm

Ozone season ends; state ushers in wood smoke restrictions
By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News
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Published: Saturday, Nov. 1 2014 12:01 p.m. MDT
Updated: 3 hours ago

The Wasatch Front enjoyed a relatively mild ozone season this summer, and now state air quality regulators are bracing for the start of the winter pollution months, which officially get underway Nov. 1. With that comes wood smoke restrictions.

SALT LAKE CITY — With a milder summer ozone under the belt of the Wasatch Front, it is now time for residents to prepare for winter pollution and ways to help clear the skies.

The official wood smoke monitoring season kicks off Saturday, so the state Division of Air Quality is reminding residents that restrictions on burning wood and coal stoves will come as fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, increases.

The division uses an air quality alert system, developed with input from the public, to convey health implications and activity restrictions related to air pollution. A phone app, Utah Air, uses the alert system and is now available for both Android and iOS users at App users will receive burn-ban alerts and three-day forecasts to help plan the best times to exercise outdoors, or when to make a consolidated trip for errands based on conditions.

“The Utah Air app is our most popular tool because Utahns can quickly click on the information they need at anytime and anywhere,” said Bryce Bird, division director. “This is important information people can access in order to make daily decisions that will improve air quality during the upcoming winter inversion season.”

The division’s alert system features these action alerts via three symbols to indicate unrestricted, voluntary and mandatory actions:

Unrestricted Action (symbol = circle): Wood- and coal-burning stoves or fireplaces may be used, but use them in a proper manner to reduce smoke emissions.

Voluntary Action (symbol = inverted triangle): Voluntarily do not use wood- and coal-burning stoves or fireplaces. Reduce vehicle use by consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air pollution emissions.

Mandatory Action (symbol = X): Wood and coal burning stoves or fireplaces must not be used. Reduce vehicle use by consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air pollution emissions.

Donna Kemp Spangler, spokeswoman with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said when the mandatory restrictions are in place, the use of solid fuel appliances can bring penalties of up to $299 per day. If the public spots a violation, reports can be made by calling the division at 801-536-4000 during business hours or by filling out a form online at:

Reducing pollution from wood or coal smoke has been a concerted campaign of the division, lawmakers and the office of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Among a slate of clean air recommendations Herbert made earlier this year was his call to invoke another layer wood smoke restrictions in the state's non-attainment zones — or areas that have yet to come into compliance with federal Clean Air restrictions.

Utah lawmakers ponied up $250,000 for a wood smoke education campaign to be carried out by DEQ and another half million to convert "sole source" households to cleaner burning natural gas, propane or electricity.

Joel Karmazyn, a planner with the Division of Air Quality, said the agency is preparing to send out letters to households that are on the registry to inform them of the financial help available for a conversion.

The registry was created in early 1990s by the state to allow exemptions to the mandatory no-burn restrictions if a household has no other method of heating other than the burning of solid fuel such as wood or coal.

Only a vote of the board can allow the registry to "open" to allow more households to register, and that consideration was under public comment until Friday.

Some clean air advocacy organizations urged reopening the registry to capture any new households where homeowners may have been unaware of the requirement, Karmazyn said.

He added that the comment period has drawn robust participation, especially by households situated in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons angling for exemption from no burn restrictions because they assert they are high enough that their wood smoke is not part of the valley airshed.

Initially, more than 200 households in Utah were on the registry, but that number has since been whittled considerably.

Karmazyn said he personally went out into neighborhoods checking on current registrants, surveying nearly 60 homes to determine if sole source burning was still applicable for that household.

"It was a very lengthy and laborious process to track down some of these homeowners," he said.

Utah Clean Air Partnership grants had helped facilitate many conversions to clean burning fuel, and in some cases, older residences had been razed.

The sole source registry ended up with 38 Utah households that qualify for exemptions for no-burn restrictions.

"Many of the homeowners were not the same people, or the homes had been razed for new development," Karmazyn said.

Some of the remaining homes, he added, are located in areas where there are no natural gas lines, so the challenge is to get them converted to propane or electric heat.

"These are not cheap conversions."

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One program to ease wood smoke starting, another ends

Staff Reports
Posted: 10/31/2014 07:14:34 PM PDT

One program to curb wood smoke pollution in Butte County is beginning its season, even as another effort to do the same is ending its annual run.

Another year of the "Check before you light" program that asks people to forgo setting wood fires on days when air pollution is forecast to be bad, was approved last week by the Butte County Air Quality Management District board last week.

At the same meeting, the board heard that the second year of a voucher program to help people replace older wood stoves with cleaner-burning models had wrapped up.

The board heard 162 vouchers had been issued. Of that, 145 were either for $1,000 toward swapping an older stove with a newer wood burning model, or $1,750 for replacing wood with a gas or pellet stove. Another 17 provided up to $3,000 for low-income families to make the change.

All told, $247,000 came to the district to pay for the program this year, through a settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and three Mississippi companies that imported and distributed small engines that didn't meet U.S. emission standards. Through the settlement, the firms had to fund a program that would take as much pollution out of the air as the engines added.

The program has one more year, and applications will be taken sometime next August for the third round.

Most people — 54 percent — are choosing a wood-to-wood trade out, with 29 percent changing to gas and 17 percent going to pellet stoves.

Forty-one percent of the vouchers have been issued in the Chico area, with another 31 percent in Paradise/Magalia, 17 percent in the Oroville area, 5 percent in Gridley/Biggs, and 6 percent elsewhere in the county.

The other wood smoke action by the air quality board Thursday reauthorized the "Check before you light" program that has been running for several years. It will start Saturday and run through February.

Under the program, the district makes an air pollution forecast each afternoon for the following day. If pollution is expected to exceed federal air quality standards, an advisory is issued asking county residents to refrain from lighting a wood fire. The same advisory triggers a mandatory ban within the Chico city limits.

Four advisories were issued last winter in the Chico area, with two more in Gridley.

Wood smoke has been found to be the major contributor to a form of pollution that has built up above federal air quality standards several times during the winter in Butte County, especially in Chico. The small particulate pollution consists of microscopic bits of soot and ash that hang in the air for hours and can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, causing health problems, according to scientists.

The federal standard was exceeded just once all winter, in Gridley. In past years, the standard was exceeded as many as 23 times, but there has been a steady downward trend. The "Check before you light" program is given some credit for that, with air district staff saying the advisory results in as much as a 20 percent reduction in predicted pollution levels.

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• 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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