Freedom of Air - Public Awareness of Outdoor Wood Boilers

Public Awareness and Reasearch of Outdoor Wood Boilers

News 2007 

This page is dedicated to any and all news stories we have found throughout the country and world that deal with Outdoor Wood Boilers. Scroll Down to the Bottom of the page for News 2006. 

December 31, 2007

12/31/2007
Town regulates outdoor wood-fueled furnaces
By Matthew Renda , Special to the Freeman

 

HYDE PARK - The Town Board has passed a local law strictly regulating the use of outdoor wood-burning stoves.

Officials say the furnaces can be a nuisance to neighbors due to smoke emission. While acknowledging the heating systems can be a viable and cheap alternative to burning fuel, Supervisor Pompey Delafield said that the cumulative effect of several furnaces in town neighborhoods could compromise air quality.

"Right now, the number of furnaces in town has not been a problem, but we want to be proactive and make sure it does not become a problem," Delafield said during the meeting.

Pat O'Hagan, an owner of an outdoor furnace, urged the board not to adopt the resolution.

"There has not been a discernible presence of people against outdoor furnaces," said O'Hagan. "All the meetings I have been to, the people who have attended have been in favor of them. Don't pass a law just because other communities are doing it."

Councilman Richard Perkins emphasized the resolution was not an outright ban on outdoor furnaces, but was designed to institute strict regulations to ensure the number of furnaces does not exceed a desirable amount.

"You will still be permitted to use (the furnaces)," Perkins told those in attendance. "Those who currently own and operate furnaces are grandfathered in."

Resident David Lomasney, a mechanical engineer by trade, continued to advocate the furnaces even after he learned of the grandfather clause. He asserted that wood is a renewable resource and wood-burning furnaces were an environmentally responsible alternative to heating homes with fuel.

"Alternative energy uses are of extreme interest to me," he said. "I disagree with the characterization of these devices as spewing smoke and smog producers. They emit the same volume of smoke as indoor furnaces."

Delafield countered by saying indoor furnaces have the smoke rise through a tall chimney, ensuring the emission will not be an annoyance to neighbors.

Councilman Robert Linville further explained the resolution stipulated the height of the chimneys that are to be built in accordance with outdoor furnaces.

Other regulations forbid furnace operation from May 15 through Oct. 15; no fuel other than wood is allowed; the devices are to be built at least 300 feet from all property lines, and all furnaces must be equipped with a spark arrester.

Those who currently operate wood-burning furnaces are asked to obtain a permit at town hall so officials will not penalize current owners in the future.

Violation of the law will result in a $250 fine.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

December 28, 2007

Wood Stove Blamed For Van Etten Fire

Reported by: Jeff Stone
Email: JStone@WETMTV.com
Last Update: 12/28/2007 12:02 am

An outdoor wood stove is blamed for a fire that destroyed a home in Van Etten earlier this month.

Chemung County Emergency Management Director, Mike Smith, says a stove next to the house caught some siding on fire. The flames quickly spread and destroyed the home on Wyncoop Creek Road December 18th.

Two people inside were able to get out, thanks to a passerby who helped them out of the house.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

December 22, 2007

N.S. Council may put hold on outdoor furnaces

By:JOSEPH FITZGERALD

 

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Time may be running out for North Smithfield homeowners who are considering installing outdoor wood burning furnaces to help with rising energy costs.

 

A private nuisance case between two Pound Hill Road neighbors over one of the

neighbor's use of an outdoor wood burning furnace has prompted the Town Council to consider placing a moratorium on any new furnace installation until the town can study the effects of the devices and draft local regulations that could either set strict regulations or ban the stoves altogether.

At its meeting Monday night, the council voted 3 to 2 to hire an expert consultant to provide scientific data to the council and help the town craft a local ordinance and determine whether or not it should move forward on a moratorium in the meantime.

The local case in question involves resident Keith Klockars of 676 Pound Hill Road, who has been operating an outside wood boiler manufactured by Minnasota-based Central Boiler, Inc. Klockars' neighbor, John Wilbur, who lives 200 from Klockars' house, has complained to town officials about constant clouds of thick smoke he says has made it impossible for his family to enjoy their backyard.

An outdoor wood furnace resembles a small utility building that sits outdoors and contains a wood fired, water-jacketed stove. The hot water is circulated through underground pipes to the inside of the house, where they are hooked to a heat exchanger in the majority of cases. In some cases, they can be directly plumbed to the hot water heater or tied in with an existing floor heating system or boiler.

Proponents say outdoor wood furnaces are simple, clean and efficient. Instead of moving the wood and corresponding mess and bugs indoors, the wood burning furnace is outdoors next to the wood. Indoor air pollution is also cut to zero by moving the fire and smoke outside. Users typically load it once at night and once in the morning.

Opponents point to the fact that wood burning furnaces cause dense smoke that

impacts neighbors by creating a nuisance and health problems. Most units come

equipped with very short stacks and the smoke from these low stacks disperses

poorly.

The problem, according to Stacey McFadden, a senior environmental engineer with LFR Environmental Management and Consulting, is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends emissions and air quality standards, but does not regulate where and when the wood-fired burners can be installed or used. A growing number of communities nationwide, McFadden told the council Monday, are setting their own rules on the increasingly popular wood boilers, which are not federally regulated.

Some states, including Connecticut and Maine, have regulations and let their

municipalities adopt even stricter limits or ban the boilers altogether, she said. Massachusetts has considered statewide rules but has not enacted them.

McFadden's firm was hired by Wilbur to sample the smoke enveloping his property. The sampling was conducted on Dec. 1-2 and determined that the concentrations of particulate matter (gases and particles) were in excess of national ambient air quality standards.

Klockars challenged the results, saying when he was given a copy of the test results by Wilbur he sent them to the manufacturer of his boiler, whiuch in turn sent them to Tech Environmental, which questioned the accuracy of the LFR sampling.

"No one is pointing the finger at anyone," Councilwoman Linda B. Thibault told the parties involved. "We're just looking for information. We've been getting complaints about this issue for two years and we need to know more."

Councilman Paul L. LeClerc said he visited Wilbur's property recently and couldn't believe the amount of smoke impacting the property. "You could barely see his house," he said. "Seeing that house covered with smoke scared the hell out of me."

LeClerc said it was he who suggested that Wilbur hire a firm to test the air.

LeClerc made the motion Monday night to implement a moratorium on new outdoor wood furnaces affective immediately, but Town Solicitor Mark C. Hadden advised the council to first hire a consultant.

As for the problems between Klockars and Wilbur, both men are trying to deal with the issue as neighbors. "On Dec. 3 I got a call from Mr. Wilbur saying he was bothered by the boiler," Klockars told the council. "We met on Dec. 5 to talk about a few things like raising the stack higher and putting in a draft."

Klockars says he's willing to volunteer his furnace for any future objective

scientific testing. "If you're going to ban them you have to find out what they're doing to the environment first."

Wilbur described Klockars as a "good neighbor," but said the reality is that neither he nor his children can go outside because of the smoke. "It's not simply an issue of burning wood. It's a matter of life and death."

Full Article: CLICK HERE

December 14, 2007

STRATHAM, NH — Residents in the Elton Avenue neighborhood expressed concern to the Board of Selectmen on Monday night about a resident's outdoor wood-burning furnace.

The furnace is not near anyone's house, but concern over the amount of smoke emitted from it was voiced. The neighbors contend that the furnace is a nuisance per the nuisance clause in the town ordinance. Selectmen questioned the frequency of use and how it differs from a woodstove. No town official has seen it smoking.

Selectman David Short suggested that individuals with complaints contact the town when it is actually smoking or the next time it approaches a level of blanketing the neighborhood.

Town Administrator Paul Deschaine suggested if it is over the weekend, call police dispatch so the complaint is on record.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

December 13, 2007

Outdoor wood-burning stoves to be debated

Globe News

HURLEY -- The future of outdoor word-burning stoves in the City of Hurley will be addressed by the planning and zoning committee.

Council member Don Richards said a statewide ban on the stoves may be forthcoming.

Mayor Joe Pinardi said area business operators selling the stoves will be invited to the committee meeting. He said the city should take action before the stoves possibly become a problem.

The chief concerns with the stoves are about creating neighborhood pollution.

Gogebic Range residents who live in country settings have used firewood for fuel for decades, and that could increase as the cost of fuel oil and natural gas continues to skyrocket. But will the outdoor furnaces cause too many conflicts in the city?

Wood smoke's major ingredient -- tiny particles of soot and liquid pollution -- can cause heart disease and asthma attacks.

Officials across the country are attempting to reduce smoke from the nation's 37 million home chimneys and 10 million wood stoves.

USA Today reported recently that communities from Darrington, Wash., to the greater Pittsburgh area are offering incentives to anyone who junks a wood stove that is more than 13 years old.

USA Today also said seven northern states want a federal crackdown on heating systems that rely on water warmed by burning wood.

Attorneys general of Michigan, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency in August to set limits on emissions from outdoor wood boilers and Wisconsin may follow that action.


full article:
CLICK HERE

December 13, 2007

Council approves ban on use of exterior furnaces

By Don Jovich

Record-Courier staff writer

GARRETTSVILLE -- Village Council voted Wednesday to ban the use of any exterior furnaces within the village.

The village planning commission had recommended the ban. "The planning commission felt the operation of these units are a nuisance," Solicitor Mark Manlove said.

Councilman Jeff Kaiser said other communities are having problems with people burning anything from tires to trash in the outdoor furnaces.

"It's a problem," he said. "In the communities they are allowed there are many restrictions."

The use of outdoor wood boilers, exterior solid fuel heating devices, outdoor wood-fire furnaces and outdoor wood burning furnaces are now strictly prohibited.

Fines for those found in violation of the ordinance go up to $500 per day of operation and up to 60 days in jail for the offender.

Resident Rick Layer, who purchased a Central Boiler exterior furnace for $14,000 and installed it in August, said he was unaware of any attempts to ban burning devices.

He said his furnace does not affect his neighbors.

Council President Robert Matson supported banning the devices.

"We can't put the whole village at risk to accommodate you (Layer)," he told Layer.

Councilwoman Karen Clyde said more and more states are banning the burning devices.

"We're not worried about somebody using it right, we're concerned with someone using it wrong," Mayor Craig Moser said.

Another resident thanked council for banning the outdoor furnaces. "We'll breathe easier in this town," she said.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

December 9, 2007

12/9/2007 

Southbury homeowner treated for smoke inhalation

SOUTHBURY -- A homeowner suffered throat burns from smoke inhalation while fighting a fire in his garage after an ash bucket began to burn Friday, according to fire officials.

Ray Huntley Jr., 44, returned to his Riverhill Road home with his family shortly after 8 p.m. and smelled smoke in the house, officials said. A plastic container with ashes had melted, igniting a nearby scooter, some drywall and a wood frame around a stairway in the garage, officials said.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

October 13, 2007

Complaints over wood-fired burner prompt ordinance in Smithfield
By Beth Brelje/Pocono Record Writer


When it comes to water, some like it hot.

But Smithfield Township residents will need to think twice before installing an outdoor wood-fired burner
for heating water or homes.

A new ordinance severely restricts the conditions in which an outdoor wood-fired burner may be used.

The ordinance change comes after a disagreement between Smithfield neighbors Robert McLaughlin
and Robert and Ilona Harrison on Kings Pond Road.

In 2005, McLaughlin placed a burner on his 3.3-acre property, just 12 feet from the property line and 94
feet from the Harrison's bedroom window.

At the time of the $10,000 installation, McLaughlin's project adhered to Smithfield's building codes.

But when he fired the burner up in November 2005 for year-round, 24/7 operation, the intense smoke
created health problems for Ilona Harrison, who suffers form asthma.

"I had a pain in my lungs when I took deep breath," she said.

Smoke stung the Harrison's eyes, forced their windows shut and still permeated inside, stinking up
their drapes and clothes.

"We were prisoners in our own house, but we were not even free here because of the smoke. It was
a terrible risk to our health," Robert Harrison said.

Now well versed on the issue, he mentions a study from Connecticut researches that states smoke
particles from this type of burner constitute both a substantial cancer and non-cancer risk.

Two other neighbors joined the attempt to shut down McLaughlin's burner.

The Harrisons hired attorney Jeff Durney, who sought help from Smithfield's zoning officer and next,
the zoning hearing board.

Durney cited an ordinance that states you can't use your property to cause injury, annoyance or disturbance,
and another covering noxious or objectionable smoke.

In May 2007, the zoning hearing board deemed the burner a violation, and ordered it shut down.

The board could fine McLaughlin up to $500 a day if he burns again.

McLaughlin has appealed the decision.

"Many people have asked me, why am I the only one the township is shutting down? Why am I being
singled out?" McLaughlin asked.

He said Central Boiler, the company that made the stove, had tests done by the EPA.

The stoves passed air quality particulate tests and all EPA regulations. According to McLaughlin, the tests
showed the stove is cleaner than a barbecue grill and an indoor fireplace.

But no tests were done locally.

"There were no air quality tests done in the area of my stove whatsoever by the township or the Harrisons,"
McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the township changed the ordinance based on opinion rather than fact.

The ordinance had language that mentioned air quality.

That same issue is raising protests over the proposed concrete batch plant in the same area of the township.

McLaughlin said the Harrisons have been vocal opponents of the concrete batch plant.

"It almost sounds like the Harrisons are using Smithfield Township as a sword in an air-quality fight,"
McLaughlin said.

"Today it's my wood furnace; tomorrow it's your wood stove, or how about the campground?" he said.

Clearing the air: The new Smithfield ordinance regulating outdoor burning requires:

The boiler must be on a minimum five-acre lot
Must be set back no less than 150 feet from the property line
Must be at least 300 feet away from an occupied structure on another property
May only burn clean wood
Shall not be operated before Oct. 1 or after April 30 of each year
The emissions from the outdoor wood-fired burner shall not be detectable beyond the lot on which it is located
Owners are required to get an annual permit for operation

Full Article: CLICK HERE

September 19, 2007

Outdoor furnaces at issue in Germany
Evening Sun
Article Launched: 09/19/2007 09:48:18 AM EDT

The Germany Township supervisors are still working on an ordinance that would regulate installation and operation of residents' outdoor solid fuel-burning furnaces.

Supervisor Richard Valko said last week he recently obtained a sample ordinance the township will use to help finalize their own regulations, which were tabled by the board in August following criticism from residents. Valko said the board saw the sample ordinance for the first time at the monthly meeting last week.

The furnaces, loosely defined as any outdoor apparatus used primarily for combustion of fuel to produce heat for energy, have drawn complaints from several residents in recent months for the smoke they emit onto neighboring properties.

At the August supervisors' meeting, several people spoke of their neighbors' burning furnaces impeding their quality of life. Residents complained of foul-smelling smoke drifting onto their properties that, at times, made breathing difficult for those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.


The supervisors then discussed regulations that would ban furnaces within 50 feet of property lines, and would set a minimum chimney height requirement of 20 feet. The board also wants to regulate what residents can burn in their furnaces by banning treated wood, garbage, recyclables and other materials.

But some residents have criticized the board, saying there are only four of the furnaces throughout the township and an ordinance isn't necessary. And one resident even challenged his neighbors to prove he was burning anything other than untreated wood.

Several of those residents were at last weeks supervisors meeting, but the only discussion came when Valko mentioned the sample ordinance. Valko also said he talked to a furnace supplier who recommended ways to stack wood inside devices to reduce smoke emissions.

It is unknown if the proposed furnace regulations will be on the agenda for the supervisors' next monthly meeting, scheduled Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

September 12, 2007


Cornwall Proposes Ban on Boilers

The Patriot-News, 09/12/07 12:09 AM EDT
CORNWALL

Rather than restricting the use of outdoor wood boilers, the borough council voted unanimously Monday to draft an outright ban on the devices.

The council had been preparing to adopt an ordinance that would have restricted the boilers, which burn wood to heat water for home heating and hot water. It had temporarily banned the boilers after complaints from neighbors about smoke from one on Pine Street.

While preparing new regulations, the council asked attorney Paula Leicht to also look into whether it could pass a permanent ban. Leicht said she believes the borough has the authority to bar the boilers on the basis of regulating air quality.

She said a ban would be similar to an outdoor burn ordinance.

Council members said enforcing restrictions could be difficult. "It comes down to an enforcement nightmare," Councilwoman Wendy Hanford said.

The proposed ordinance, which was not acted on, would have established escalating restrictions on the boilers, including limits on their proximity to neighboring properties. If a ban is adopted, the borough could set a timetable for their removal, Leicht said.

Councilman Paul Vranesic asked if a ban would interfere with consumer rights.

"That’s what zoning does. You can’t do just anything with your property," Leicht responded.


A proposed ordinance banning the boilers could be ready for review by the council in October, and a public hearing will be required.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

August 17, 2007

Augusta: Wood Boiler Debate Heats Up 

Friday, August 17, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine - Owners and dealers of outdoor wood-fired boilers squared off against critics of the furnaces on Thursday as state environmental regulators began considering the first statewide regulations on the increasingly popular home heating devices.

More than 50 people attended a public hearing held by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection on proposed rules that would establish emissions caps, mandatory setbacks and other restrictions for new outdoor wood boilers.

Ron Severance with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Air Quality attempted to make it clear upfront that the proposed rules are not meant to ban the use of wood as a fuel source in Maine.

Severance said that while the 50 complaints his agency has received represent a tiny fraction of the estimated 3,500 outdoor wood furnaces in Maine, he said neighborly disputes will only increase as more people seek cheaper alternatives to fossil fuel heat.

Beth Thomas of Bowdoinham was one of several people who testified that smoke from their neighbors’ furnaces was taking a toll on their health and quality of life.

Thomas said she turned to town officials, the DEP, Gov. John Baldacci and federal officials for help but got nowhere.

Relations with her neighbor have deteriorated to the point that the two sides are in court. Meanwhile, Thomas said her family has opted to move rather than live with what she described as the heavy, creosote-smelling smoke.

"I have been called courageous for speaking out. If I appear courageous, it’s only because of the stunning lack of leadership" from government officials, she said. "We have lost everything. … We have lost our home, our community."

The rule-making proposal pending before the board would regulate new outdoor wood boilers in several phases.

Beginning in April 2008, dealers would be prohibited from selling boilers that emit more than 0.6 pounds of particulate matter per million British thermal units, or Btu, contained in the wood fuel.

Some dealers have already pledged to produce furnaces meeting those standards under a voluntary federal program.

The emissions level would drop to 0.32 pounds of particulate matter, or soot, per million Btu two years later.

The proposed rules would also require at least a 100-foot setback from the nearest property line for boilers meeting the 0.6 standard. They would also impose a minimum smokestack height of 10 feet, or 2 feet higher than the peak height of nearby neighbor’s roof.

Current wood boiler owners would not be subject to the new emissions or setback requirements but could face new nuisance regulations. The rules would also prohibit burning of anything but clean untreated and unpainted wood, wood pellets made from clean wood or other approved fuels.

Richard Emmons, who owns a wood furnace dealership in Lyman, told the board that a better solution was a voluntary manufacturer program combined with mandatory inspection of any newly installed boiler.

"It still needs to be put in properly and a little consideration needs to be given on location," he said.

At one point, the board got a taste of how complicated the issue can be when two neighbors offered their sides of a dispute that has been going on for nearly two years.

Jane Barron claimed that a wood boiler just 23 feet from her house in Kingfield has severely aggravated her asthma and led to a lengthy bout with pneumonia.

Claiming she feels like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, Barron urged the board to help her and others by enacting rules to protect the public health.

"You talk about people investing in these stoves. I’ve invested in my house. I run a business out of my house," Barron said.

Moments later, however, the neighbor said her family has gone out of its way to address Barron’s concerns, including erecting a smokestack that now stands more than 40 feet high. Beth Ann Luce said opacity tests on her family’s boiler have also come back below the nuisance levels.

"Be very careful … when you make your rules because there are families like ours who do care about other people and do try to address" their concerns, Luce said.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

August 17, 2007

Fumes fuel pleas for boiler limits
 
About 100 people turn out for a public hearing on proposed guidelines for outdoor wood boilers.

By CRAIG CROSBY
Blethen Maine News Service
August 17, 2007


AUGUSTA — Beth Thomas' neighbor installed an outdoor
wood boiler a little more than a year ago.

Last month, unable to cope with the fumes any longer, Thomas
moved out of her Bowdoinham home and put it up for sale.

"It cost me everything to speak out," Thomas told members of
the state's Board of Environmental Protection during a hearing
on proposed rules to control emissions from outdoor wood
boilers. "We've lost our home. We've lost our community."

Roughly 100 people gathered at the Augusta Civic Center for a
public hearing Thursday on a proposed set of guidelines that
govern emissions, establish setbacks and give the Department
of Environmental Protection rules for identifying nuisance
boilers.

An outdoor wood boiler burns wood to heat water, which is
piped underground to heat a building. A boiler resembles a
small shed, with a smokestack, and stands alone outside. An
average residential boiler tends to produce less than 1 million
Btu per hour.

The boilers, which are not subject to Environmental Protection
Agency regulations for traditional indoor wood stoves, are
designed to smolder to save fuel and typically have smoke
stacks no more than 10 feet tall. Consequently, they can
produce heavy smoke and release it near the ground.

Though designed for dry wood, some owners burn green wood,
and there have even been reports of people burning trash and
other debris in violation of state laws.

"We believe that adopting strong rules that regulate outdoor
wood boiler sales and establishing a process for relief from
problem boilers is a vital step in improving air quality and
protecting the health of those residents of today and the future
who find themselves living, working or going to school near an
outdoor wood boiler," said Edward Miller, executive director of
the American Lung Association of Maine.

Delbert Reed of Augusta, a licensed engineer and master
electrician who installed a wood boiler last year, said many of
the proposed rules are on target. But he argued against
measuring smoke by using opacity -- the degree to which
emissions, other than water, reduce light and obscure the view
of an object in the background.

"Water vapor is a byproduct of wood combustion," Reed said.
"There will always be steam present from any exhaust from a
wood fire."

A false opacity reading could lead to a guilty verdict with no
proof, he said.

"The homeowner would be forced to prove his innocence," Reed
said.

The DEP has reported 50 chronic complaints over the past two
years, including from Jane Barron of Kingfield. She said the
smoke aggravates her asthma, and, she believes, contributed to
her bout of pneumonia last year.

"I believe the wood boiler has greatly interfered with my health,"
Barron said. "It's a health problem for me. It's a health problem
for anyone who walks down the street and smells that smoke. I
need your help."

But Beth Ann Luce, a registered nurse who owns the boiler next
to Barron, said she has tried to address Barron's complaints by
moving the boiler inside a barn and running the smoke stack
through the roof.

"The stack is now 10 feet above Ms. Barron's home," Luce said.
"We've done everything we can do to address her complaints."

The DEP has twice visited Luce's home and measured opacity
levels of 10 percent and 5 percent, well below the 30 percent
that would be permitted by the proposed rule.

"The Luce family should be complimented for dealing with the
issue properly and carefully," a department inspector wrote.

The nuisance provision in the new rule simply states that no
person may operate a boiler "in such a manner as to create a
nuisance."

The rule could force users to get rid of even harmless boilers,
Luce said. "It's a waste of your time, our time and taxpayer
money," she said.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

August 13, 2007

Outdoor wood boilers taking some heat

A rise in complaints about smoke prompts the state to propose rules on emissions standards and setbacks.

By CRAIG CROSBY
Blethen Maine News Service
August 13, 2007

WATERVILLE — Ron Cutter decided to take action two years
ago after he burned about 3,600 gallons of heating oil to warm
his two Washington Street homes.

Cutter installed an outdoor wood boiler and last year heated his
home on about five cords of wood that he bought and a few
more he cut and picked from around his home. Overall, Cutter
figures he saved about $7,000 in heating costs last year, nearly
enough to pay for the new boiler.

"I don't know about you, but I can't afford that," he said. "I had
to fight with my wife and son to put it in. Now they think it's the
best thing since sliced bread. People don't know until they
actually have one."

Cutter is not the only one to turn to an outdoor wood boiler.
Tied by underground piping into existing heating and domestic
hot water systems, the distinctive pitched roofs that cover the
boilers have popped up with increasingly regularity as costs of
petroleum have continued to climb, said Jim Brooks, director of
the Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Air
Quality.

With that popularity, however, has come a corresponding
increase in the number of complaints that Brooks' office has
received from angry neighbors complaining of smoke wafting
onto their property.

"People were essentially getting smoked out by their neighbors,"
Brooks said. "We went from two complaints in 2004 to about 50
or so chronic complaints in 2006 and 2007." With little
regulatory authority over the boilers, however, the DEP has acted
quickly to establish rules establishing standards for emissions
and setbacks and to prevent nuisance smoke. A public hearing
on the proposed rules is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at the
Augusta Civic Center.

The proposed rules would strengthen emission standards in two
phases.

The first would require boilers sold after April 1, 2008, to meet a
particulate matter emission limit of 0.60 pounds per million Btu.
Many boiler companies already have been working toward the
0.60 limit, thanks to a voluntary limit initiated by the EPA,
Brooks said.

The limit for new boilers would be lowered to 0.32 pounds per
million Btu by April 1, 2010.

The rules also would establish minimum setbacks, mandate
smokestack heights that vary according to where the boiler is,
and limit burning to material for which the boiler is designed.
The practice of burning garbage, tires, chemicals and some
other substances would be banned.

While Brooks thinks the new rules will prevent future problems,
there are provisions for dealing with complaints against any
existing boiler if its smoke crosses into a neighbor's yard for
more than 15 minutes in any hour.

"The homeowner could be subject to a cease-and-desist
enforcement," Brooks said. "Generally we'll try to see what the
problem is and see if it can be fixed."

Brooks said his department will not circle a neighborhood
looking for the so-called nuisance boilers, but that provides
little comfort to Terry Markham, owner of Best Way Wood Heat in
Readfield. The opacity test, which gauges the smoke level in an
area based on how much light is limited, is far too subjective,
Markham said. "There are too many interpretations," she said. "It
could be abused."

She also balks at setback requirements of as much as 200 feet.

"You need a big chunk of land and you need to be centered
perfectly to be able to use these," Markham said. "It's going to
tie the hands of so many citizens in this state."

Edward Miller, executive director of the American Lung
Association of Maine, which pushed the June legislation that
prompted the DEP to adopt new rules, believes there should be a
limit on where the boilers can be placed.

"Nobody has the right to pollute someone else's air," Miller said.
"It's not about burning wood. It's about burning wood
responsibly. Our intent is to put these where they're more
appropriate and where they won't cause a problem."

Best Way Wood Heat sells Heatmor boilers, which Markham
believes will be able to develop the technology to meet the
0.60-pound limit in April. Reaching the 0.32-pound limit by
April 1, 2010, is much more difficult.

"At this point you're asking an outdoor wood boiler to be cleaner
than an indoor stove," Markham said. "Boilers give central heat
and hot water. Indoor stoves that they're relating emissions to
can't do that. The indoor stoves can achieve emission ratings
because they reduced the size of the fire box."

Smoke from the boilers can exacerbate lung conditions, Miller
said. There has been testimony from people who can't sit in their
backyard.

Miller recalls the story of one Washington County couple who
could not let their son play outside.

"Even in the house they had air cleaning equipment that was
filled with soot from the boiler next door to them," Miller said.
"Many of these wood boilers are very highly polluting."

Markham recalls another complaint lodged against one of her
customers. The boiler was never used, yet a neighbor
complained of smoke emanating from "somewhere," Markham
said.

"That's how bogus some of those complaints are," she said.

Markham said she has heard from businesses and homeowners
who are able to keep their property because of the money the
boilers save them in heating fuel. The new rules could make
those stories rare.

"There's such a variety of businesses that use this product, and
they're the people that create revenue for the state and jobs,"
Markham said.

If neighboring homes were closer, Cutter would not have
installed an outdoor wood boiler, but he is glad he could.

"To me, it's a nice boiler," he said. "It's done everything I want it
to do. The people that have them love them. The people that
don't have them hate them."

Full Article: CLICK HERE

July 18, 2007

MIDDLEPORT: Outdoor wood-burning furnaces banned

By Joyce Miles/milesj@gnnewspaper.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

MIDDLEPORT — Tom Winkley and Debbie Morgan are out $2,200 after the village board banned the use of outdoor, wood-burning furnaces Monday.

Trustees voted unanimously in favor of the ban, which prohibits construction and operation of the devices anywhere in the village. Trustee Terry Kirkpatrick was absent.

“These units are being marketed quite aggressively,” village attorney Dan Seaman said, “and there are potential health hazards” in their operation.

The preface to the law, virtually a copy of the one passed earlier this month in the village of Barker, says “the types of fuel used and the scale and duration of burning ... create noxious and hazardous smoke, soot, fumes, odors and air pollution. ... (s)uch pollutants are detrimental to residents’ health, and deprive neighboring residents of enjoyment of their premises.”

That finding doesn’t sit well with Winkley and Morgan, a couple at 22 Sleeper St. who’ve had their furnace for a while and say it’s generated no heat from neighbors. They don’t use their outdoor furnace in summertime, when others’ windows are open and the smoke might bother them, Winkley said.

“I try my darndest to satisfy my neighbors without polluting them out,” he said. “I don’t think I should get slapped ... because of someone else.”

Winkley, who purchased a used unit for about $2,200, operates it in the cooler months to heat his home and water. He’s one of only two village homeowners known to use an outdoor-based furnace at this point.

Village officials said the ban was prompted by the other homeowner, who reportedly used his boiler as an incinerator for disposing materials such as carpet and roofing shingles.

Trustee Tom Conley said he had heard complaints about “people getting choked out” by smoke; trustees Frank Sarchia and Liz Bateman said they had not taken any complaints.

Winkley questioned why the board didn’t get after the person burning non-wood materials instead — and how trustees could decide smoke from his outdoor boiler is more dangerous than the smoke that comes out of chimneys from indoor wood-burners.

The difference, Building Inspector Tom Arlington suggested, is the outdoor furnaces are relatively new devices for which the Environmental Protection Agency has not emission standards.

Iris Waters of Royalton, an outdoor, wood-burning furnace owner/operator who publicly applauded Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker’s veto of a similar ban earlier this month, said the real problem with the devices is ignorance.

“The outdoor (furnaces) are so much safer than having any type of wood-burning device in the home; they’re also an alternative to gas and electric,” she said. “(Government) should be working with people on this, not against them. ... Banning these devices is a huge mistake.”

Debbie Morgan asked whether enforcement of the law could be put off for up to six months while she and Winkley burn the rest of their wood supply. The law is going into effect immediately, according to Seaman, but at the board’s request, he will write a secondary local law allowing boiler owners to apply for a temporary exemption.

The Middleport board began tackling the boiler ban this past winter after complaints about smoke, according to Clerk-Treasurer Rebecca Schweigert. Passage on the heels of the City of Lockport ban and veto is “coincidental,” she said.

The issue is bound to arise in cities and villages, which are more densely populated than towns, according to Seaman.

“The key is the proximity of one resident to another in the village,” he said.

In the town of Newfane, which has several more densely populated core areas, there is no consideration of a boiler ban, according to Supervisor Tim Horanburg.

“We have not had a problem with them, as of yet, anyhow,” he said.

Ditto for the Village of Wilson, Mayor Tom Bateman said.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

July 14, 2007

Outdoor woodstoves up for discussion

By James Martinez, Staff Writer

OTSEGO COUNTY — Richard and Gloria Romatz of Hayes Township say an outdoor wood-burning stove operating on neighboring property prevents them from having open windows and enjoying the outdoors.

Johannesburg resident Phil Smith also raised questions about the devices last year before the Otsego County Board of Commissioners at their Dec. 19 meeting. Smith expressed concern, saying the excessive smoke caused him further health problems on top of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Romatzes felt strongly enough about the subject they wrote a letter to the editor in Wednesday’s edition of the Herald Times encouraging people to attend the planning commission meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the J. Richard Yuill Alpine Center.

“We’re hoping (the commissioners) come up with some rules and regulations on these woodstoves, particularly the existing ones. We don’t want this to fall under a grandfather clause,” Richard Romatz said Friday in a phone interview.

Outdoor wood-burning stoves and potential regulation of those type of products is on the agenda for planning commissioners to discuss, among other issues (see related story).

“We’ve had five or six complaints in the last year (about the woodstoves). Once you get that many complaints you have to at least take a look at it,” said Planning Commissioner Chairman Don Tober, who explained there is no such ordinance regulating the woodstoves.

According to Tober, he believes the woodstoves when used properly do not make excessive smoke, but said many people often do not use such devices as efficiently as possible employing such practices as burning green wood which adds to the amount of smoke.

“I guess we’re going to have to do something about it, because people are using them too close together and smoking the neighbors out,” Tober said. He also said many woodstoves are used to heat water during the summer, meaning the smoke becomes an issue year-round, not just during winter.

The Herald Times published a series on the wood-burning stoves in December and January. The series may be found at www.gaylord heraldtimes.com through an advanced search for

“wood-burning stoves” and “Phil Smith.”

Full Article: CLICK HERE

July 4, 2007

City of Lockport Forges Fire Pit Ban
Posted by:  Ron Plants, Reporter
 
Those increasingly popular fire pits are popular in backyards. But more and more communities are banning them with complaints about smoke. The City of Lockport is the latest to say no to backyard burning.

Lockport Common Council followed the request of Fire Chief Thomas Passuite to prohibit outdoor wood burning firepits, fireplaces, fire bowls, chimeneas or any similar device. The Council also banned outdoor furnaces or boilers.

City Alderman Patrick Schrader says the ban comes in the wake of some residents who did not like smoke coming into their open windows. Some said it caused more health problems, especially for people with emphysema or other respiratory ailments. Schrader says, "A lot of residents call and say somebody is burning something because the smoke is coming in my house, especially in the summer when they like to have their windows open."

Schrader says they have tightened up the city's code with this ban because there is already a concern about such outdoor burning in the Niagara County Health Department regulations.

The Alderman says so far there will be just warnings for those who use the devices. But fines could be down the road for repeat offenders.

Ironically, the new law was also approved by Common Council President John Lombardi who found one in his backyard after his daughter purchased a firepit table for his wife as a Mother's Day present. Says Lombardi, "Now this is gonna make a beautiful planter. What do you think?"

Seriously, Lombardi says he realizes some people may be frustrated after investing in the devices, but it is better to stop it now so it is not a concern down the road.

It is still frustrating for resident Mary Jacka who set up a firepit with her husband in their nicely landscaped backyard. Jacka says they use it perhaps three or four times in the summer and no one has ever complained about the smell or smoke. She says the only comment she ever heard from neighbors was 'they wish they had one.'
 
Full Article: CLICK HERE

June 18, 2007

Hearing to look at boiler rules 
 
Monday, June 18, 2007
By JOHN APPLETON
jappleton@repub.com

BELCHERTOWN - The Board of Health will hold a public hearing tonight at 7:30 in the Town Hall auditorium to discuss the final draft of its proposed regulation governing outdoor wood-fired boilers.

The board has been working for months on regulations that members said would be appropriate for Belchertown, which has a combination of sparsely and densely populated areas.

"We are looking at specific zoned areas and allowing them in areas that are large enough not to interfere with a neighbor," said Gail L. Gramarossa, vice chairman of the Board of Health.

"If the regulations pass, you really would not be able to put one of these up if you live in the center of town," Gramarossa said.

The Board of Health will vote on the proposed guidelines, most likely at its July 2 meeting.

The intent is to act early enough so that people now using wood-fired boilers would have enough time before the next heating season to determine if they will be able to continue using them.

There are about a dozen that have been in use in Belchertown.

The Board of Health imposed a moratorium on new installations pending the vote on the proposed regulations.

The regulations would have requirements for the size of a house lot, the distance of the boiler to the nearest neighboring property and the height of the chimney in relation to nearby homes.

There would also be requirements for passing a test on proper boiler operation and using only those boilers that meet federal emission standards.

The Board of Health has had numerous complaints about a few of the wood-fired boilers being used in town.

"It may be that a majority of the ones that have been being used are not going to meet the new guidelines," Gramarossa said. "We are not looking to grandfather anybody in."

Selectman Alfred J. Roccanti, who referred complaints about smoke from some of these outdoor boilers to the Board of Health, commended the work done to prepare the proposed regulations.

"I think the Health Department has done a real good job from what I have witnessed so far of evaluating regulations and being practical about living in a rural community," Roccanti said.

"I would not want to deny someone the privilege of using one if they are not going to be a threat to their neighbors," Roccanti said.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

May 7, 2007

Neighbor  Says  "Enough"  to  Millinocket Outdoor Wood Boiler

5/7/2007
Millinocket Town Officials said all outdoor wood boilers had to be turned off on May 1st. Carlene George-Adams saw her neighbor still burning on May 2nd and filed a complaint.
George-Adams took pictures of smoke coming out of her neighbor's boiler. She says that smoke has been choking her since August.

"I've been breathing that smoke for eight months and it's taken a toll," said Carlene George-Adams. "I couldn't even walk out into my backyard and it closed your lungs right up. You had to get back into the house to breathe."

Her neighbors, the McLaughlins, got the wood boiler last fall to save money on heat and hot water. They say none of their neighbors complained about the smoke to them.

Tammy McLaughlin said the boiler was still running after the deadline because her husband was out of town and she didn't know how to shut it down for the summer.

"The gentleman who sold us the boiler was going to walk him through those procedures over the phone," said Tammy McLaughlin. "Unfortunately the complaint was made just hours before the boiler was going to be shut down."

Violating the Town Ordinance carries a $100 fine for each day of the violation. The McLaughlins say they have not yet been fined.

The Legislature is discussing three bills directed at Outdoor Wood Boilers. One of those bills considers a seasonal ban, much like the one already in place in Millinocket.
NEWS CENTER

April 10, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
By DAVID REID
dreid@repub.com

HOLYOKE - The Board of Health has put a permanent damper on all outdoor wood-burning boilers in the city, voting yesterday to ban the devices despite claims by one boiler owner that his boiler complies with federal health guidelines.

By a 3-0 vote, board members duplicated a stand they took in January to ban the outdoor boilers because of adverse health effects. State regulators axed the earlier vote, saying the board had not given them prior notice and a chance to review the ban.

The new measure, modeled after one recently adopted in Longmeadow and approved by the state, bans all outdoor wood-burning devices and sets fines of up to $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

It also requires existing boilers to be "abandoned and dismantled or removed within 10 days of the effective date of this regulation."

Following some public comments during the hearing, the board quickly voted with almost no discussion. Voting "yes" for the ban were members Katherine M. Liptak, a registered nurse, and physicians Robert S. Mausel and John E. McHugh, the chairman.

McHugh said the ban would be signed and quickly sent to the state Department of Environmental Protection for its approval.

Robert S. Allen, of 25 Pinehurst Road, whose stove sparked complaints last year, attended the public hearing but did not speak. But he gave reporters written material showing, he said, that his boiler's design meets federal emission guidelines.

Because neither federal nor state governments regulate the boilers, local cities and towns have opted to do it themselves.

So far, Holyoke, Longmeadow, South Hadley and Chicopee have passed bans. Northampton's Board of Health has adopted strict regulations, and other area communities have passed moratoriums.

Before the vote, Kimberly A. Aubrey, Allen's next-door neighbor, said she has enjoyed the past several weeks since the boiler was voluntarily shut down.

"It's been very nice to have the air clean," she said.

And Curt M. Freedman, an adjunct professor of alternative energy at Western New England College, whom Aubrey hired, submitted a scientific report he said undermines claims by Allen's boiler manufacturer that the devices are safe.

The board also accepted two letters from Allen's neighbors.

One was from West Franklin Street residents Martin and Margaret Sikop, who cited burning eyes and throats, "difficulty breathing and almost constant coughing" from the boiler's smoke. Another was from At-large City Councilor Patricia C. Devine, a cancer survivor who said area residents called the fire department for fear their homes were on fire when the boiler's smoke wafted through the neighborhood.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

March 20, 2007

Town considers outdoor-furnace restrictions

from the Press Republican.Clinton,Essex and Franklin counties of Northeastern New York

March 20, 2007
PERU — On the surface, it sounds like a good idea: an alternative fuel source to help combat rising energy costs while reducing the need for fossil fuels.

But Town of Peru officials want to take a closer look at outdoor wood furnaces before allowing them to become a more common heating source for town residents.

The Town Council has placed a nine-month moratorium on building new outdoor furnaces throughout the town.

“When you drive around in just about every municipality, you can see them,” said Councilman Keith Matott, who was Peru codes enforcement officer before taking a private position more than a year ago.

“The concept is great, but we have situations where people have installed them without proper building permits. We’re in a position where we need to now consider where it is appropriate to have these things and what kinds of restrictions should be placed on them.”

Typically, a small building about the size of an outhouse holds boilers that are heated by solid fuel, which is most often wood, though some people also use corn, oats or other flammable materials.

Insulated pipes lead from the furnace to the house. The system can be used to heat the home, for hot water or to heat a pool or hot tub.

“Some of the issues with them are visual issues,” Matott said. “Since we do have units outside, we need to consider screening it, placing it in the back yard, what kind of standard building setbacks we need to establish.

“If somebody’s not the neatest at piling their wood supply, that’s another big issue we need to address.”

One of the issues raised during a recent public hearing on the outdoor furnaces was the use of the systems in more populated areas. Some people voiced concerns that the smoke from the furnaces was creating uncomfortable — if not unhealthy — conditions for neighbors.

“I’m not against using wood as a heat source; I use wood in my house as well,” said Mark Robinson, who lives in the hamlet.

“The problem is the technology behind it. If you live near one, and (the smoke) blows your way, you can’t stay outside, it’s so thick.”

Burning wood releases fine particles into the air. Wood stoves are designed to burn at very high temperatures, which reduces the number of particles being produced. Outdoor furnaces, however, have to burn at low temperatures to prevent the water from reaching the boiling point.

“The wood smoulders and doesn’t turn into heat,” Robinson said. “People assume they’re wood stoves, but they’re not. They’re shocked when they find out more about them.”

“That’s one of the things we want to look at,” Matott said. “This nine-month moratorium allows us time to consider the ramifications and to create proper regulations, so they do not have a negative impact on other people.”

One of the problems is that the smokestacks of existing furnaces are only about 10 feet tall, so smoke coming from them will often hover in the immediate vicinity instead of dispersing with the wind. A requirement to use taller smokestacks could help reduce that
problem, Matott said.

“I can understand the problem in the hamlet when stacks are too short,” said Peasleeville Road resident Mark Millet, who voiced opposition to the moratorium. “If the town required 15-, 20-foot stacks, then that would eliminate that kind of problem.”

Millet, who uses a combination wood-oil burner for his heating, had planned to construct an outdoor furnace in the summer but now is not sure what to do because of the moratorium.

“I live seven miles outside of town,” he said. “My nearest neighbor is 2,000 to 3,000 feet from me. There are two (outdoor furnaces) in the area, and they don’t bother anyone.”

As long as people don’t burn garbage or other inappropriate materials, Millet said, he believes the furnaces are no different than using a wood stove. In fact, he believes the systems are a benefit because the owner can burn junk wood like pallets or dead trees left over from the Ice Storm.

“I have no problem with them wanting to put some restrictions on (furnaces),” he said. “But they are legal in New York state. They shouldn’t be banning people from using them.”

Town Supervisor Donald Covel said he believes the outdoor furnaces should be allowed in the town’s outlying communities but added that the town had to consider options for higher-density communities, such as the hamlet and subdivisions.

“The full board needs to look at what efforts we need to minimize inappropriate smells,” he said. “As a town board, we need to have some workshops to see what’s appropriate so that these stoves can at least be allowed in certain areas.”

Systems already in place are not affected by the moratorium, but Codes Enforcement Officer Paul Blaine will be approaching residents who have not applied for proper permits for their systems, Matott noted.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

March 12, 2007

Board puts attention on boilers 
 
Monday, March 12, 2007
By LORI STABILE
lstabile@repub.com

PALMER - The Board of Health will continue its discussion about outdoor wood boilers at its meeting tomorrow at the Town Building on Main Street.

At its meeting last month, the board instituted a temporary moratorium on outdoor wood-burning boilers. Tomorrow at 7 p.m., the board is expected to schedule a public hearing to discuss proposed regulations or a ban for the structures.

"I'm sure we're going to have a big turnout. It's been a concern to me for quite some time," said Health Board member John J. Lukaskiewicz, adding the board has received complaints about units in residential neighborhoods.

James P. Rooney, a Palmer lawyer who has expressed concern about a boiler on Calkins Road, wants the board to ban the boilers, and order all existing units be dismantled.

"One has no choice but to breathe the outside air in her or his neighborhood and community. There is ample evidence that the particulates and contaminants from the use of outdoor wood burning boilers add significantly to the pollution of the air. We all need heat and hot water, but there is no right to choose a system which puts the health of others at risk," Rooney wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to the board.

"The smoke knows no property lines or legal boundaries. There is no staff available to inspect the quality of wood or other material being burned ... The only reasonable regulation is a ban on the use of the boilers," Rooney continued.

Rooney said he asked Curt M. Freedman of Longmeadow, an adjunct professor of alternative energy and energy management at Western New England College, to attend the hearing. Freedman gave a recent presentation in South Hadley, stating that one outdoor wood-burning boiler emits as much fine particulate matter as 12 wood-burning stoves.

South Hadley banned the boilers, as has Chicopee and Longmeadow. Belchertown, Southwick and Westfield have issued moratoriums on boilers.

The boilers, that some say resemble a large dog house or tool shed, heat water that is pumped into the house. At the hearing last month, a Flynt Street resident told the board she is saving a lot of money with her $10,000 boiler.

According to the Web site for Minnesota-based Central Boiler, the furnaces "provide a cost-effective, safe and environmentally responsible heating option that decreases the country's dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil."

Jeffrey Begley of Calkins Road uses one wood boiler to heat his home and a house next door. Begley said no neighbors have complained to him about the boiler. With seven children, he said the boiler has saved him a lot of money. Altogether, he owns 14 acres.

"It's not like we're in downtown Chicopee," Begley said.

There are also wood boilers on Mason, Smith and Elizabeth streets, Stimson and Peterson Roads and Country Lane.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

February 27, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
By DAVID REID
dreid@repub.com

HOLYOKE - Although the Board of Health voted last month to ban all outdoor wood-burning boilers in the city, its regulation is unenforceable because it has not yet been approved by the state.

The ban, adopted in a unanimous vote on Jan. 8 and scheduled to take effect within 30 days, followed a public hearing in which neighbors described thick smoke, and breathing and eye problems. Board members, during debate last month, cited health studies showing dangerous levels of particulate and other gas emissions.

The only outdoor wood-burning boiler here is owned by Robert S. and Mary Jo Allen, of 25 Pinehurst Road, who used it to heat their home.

A week and a half ago, the Allens' next-door neighbor, Kimberly A. Aubrey, called authorities to report the boiler was being used. After Health Director Daniel B. Bresnahan showed up, the boiler was shut down, she said.

But Eva V. Tor, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the city's ban - a copy of which her agency received only last week - is not yet in effect.

"At this point," Tor said yesterday, "the legal review is under way."

According to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 111 Section 31-C, local boards can regulate airborne pollution "subject to the approval of the Department of Environmental Protection."

After that approval is given, the final regulation must be published in a newspaper. Only then, the law declares, "said rules and regulations ... shall have the force of law."

Although neither the federal nor the state government currently regulates outdoor wood-burning boilers, Tor said the DEP is now studying a wealth of data showing the devices' ill health effects. She said the state hopes to have regulations in place "before the next heating season."

While the city cannot enforce its ban, Tor added, officials can use state nuisance statutes to stop the burning.

Assistant City Solicitor Shawn M. Willis said yesterday he sent the state agency a copy of the regulation last week, as soon as they requested it.

Board Chairman John E. McHugh, a physician, said yesterday he was shocked and upset to learn last week about the enforcement snag. Any delays by the state, he said, would be inexcusable.

"The onus is on them," McHugh said. "In the interim, I think people are being hurt." He said the board will discuss the issue when it meets in two weeks.

In the region, only the Chicopee, South Hadley and Longmeadow health boards have issued outright bans, also subject to DEP approval. Other communities have passed moratoriums and considered bans.

The West Springfield Board of Health, which adopted a moratorium in December, will discuss a ban tomorrow.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

January 27, 2007

Wood burner issue getting smokier

By BOBBY WARREN

Staff Writer

 

WOOSTER -- Though a committee is looking to present City Council with regulations to restrict the use of outdoor wood-burning furnaces, one councilwoman would like for a Cleveland Road family to keep its furnace operating.

The Laws and Ordinances Committee has been working on guidelines for the outdoor furnaces and thought it had reached a compromise. Chairman Jon Ansel, R-at large, and members David Silvestri, R-Ward 3, and Keith Topovski, D-Ward 2, recommended establishing a setback distance of 150 feet from the nearest residence and a chimney height of at least 2 feet more than the highest peak of the closest home. However, when the matter went before the full council, it was defeated.

Councilman Jon Ulbright, D-at large, has said he favors an outright ban of the outdoor wood burners. Councilwoman Mindy Cavin, D-Ward 1, said she could support a ban, but would like to make an exception for Aaron and Stephanie Gaines, who own the only one in Wooster of which city officials are aware.

Outdoor furnaces became an issue in April when residents complained to Councilman Jeff Griffin, R-Ward 4, about the one owned by the Gaines family on Cleveland Road. The Laws and Ordinances Committee has discussed the matter at several meetings since then.

The committee revisited the issue earlier this month, and Topovski proposed a 500-foot setback. Ansel favored something closer to 300 feet. While a 300-foot setback will severely limit the number of properties where an outdoor wood furnace would be permitted, Ansel said at 500 feet he was not so sure any property would meet the requirements.

"We focused on setback distance, but I don't want to overlook chimney height," Silvestri said. "I think the largest issue under discussion is the smoke."

Silvestri has repeatedly said he favors giving homeowners as many options as possible to heat their homes and water.

The furnaces, also called outdoor wood boilers, are stand-alone units erected away from dwellings. They use solid fuel (like wood or wood pellets) to heat water. The water is piped into the home where it can be used for heat in the winter and provide hot water throughout the year.

Rodney Tollefson, vice president of Central Boiler, a manufacturer of outdoor wood boilers in Greenbush, Minn., said chimney height was the most important factor.

"The chimney height is the resolution to the issue, it is not really the distance away" from the closest house, Tollefson said via telephone on Tuesday. "First and foremost, if you release exhaust at a reasonable level, the issue goes away."

The outdoor units have increasingly attracted attention. The Gaineses looked for an economical alternative to heating their home and settled on one. Stephanie Gaines has said the furnace wiped out the $350 per month heating bills.

However, a number of people have reported they believe the boilers to be detrimental to public health. Dan and Jody Starcher, who live near the Gaines family, have voiced their concerns about the safety of a unit emitting so much smoke into the air.

Much debate exists about the safety of operating an outdoor wood furnace, particularly in congested areas. The New York Attorney General's Office released a report in October 2005 titled "Smoke Gets in Your Lungs" that suggests long-term exposure to fine particulate matter in wood smoke could cause an increased risk of cancer and reduced lung function.

The report noted a short chimney and reduced draft often fail to disperse the smoke, resulting in more concentrated pollution at lower heights.

"Exposure to this smoke, like other pollutants, can cause or contribute to short-term health harms such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing and shortness of breath, and may exacerbate asthma or trigger asthma attack," the report stated.

If more attention had been given to proper chimney height installation and the creation of new test standards, Tollefson said there would have been more headway made in creating more options of heating with wood.

One test conducted used a unit with a chimney 9 feet high. Tollefson said under best practices, the chimney needs to be at least 2 feet higher than the peak of the nearest dwelling.

Releasing at the higher level allows for the smoke to disperse better and not affect the ground area, Tollefson said.

Having a short chimney height on an outdoor furnace is the same as a fireplace or wood stove with a stack sticking out of a home at 10 feet, Tollefson said.

"You can smell wood smoke, and some don't want to smell it. That's only reasonable," he said. "If you create a nuisance for someone because you don't install it properly, it needs to be resolved."

In a 1998 report on the effects of outdoor wood boilers, tests done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed the outdoor units emissions were comparable to indoor fireplaces and wood stoves. The EPA is expected to come out with guidelines by the end of January.

Ultimately the Laws and Ordinance Committee members decided to move forward with a 300-foot setback and the same height for the smoke stack -- at least 2 feet higher than nearest residence.

Another component was to have all property owners come into compliance with the ordinance within five years, meaning the chimney height and the setback requirements both had to be met.

Ansel said he believed the five-year amortization period was ample time for a family to recoup its investment. In talks with someone who installs outdoor furnaces, Ansel said the units have a high resale value.

Cavin expressed a reluctance to have the Gaineses get rid of their unit because they did everything the city required of them. At the time of their installation, Wooster had no ordinance in place regulating the outdoor furnaces.

Because smoke is a primary issue, Cavin suggested the committee come forward with two pieces of legislation. One ordinance would require all owners to comply with the chimney height within 90 days, and the other would either limit or ban their use.

"Before we tell them in five years they have to get rid of it, let's ask them to raise the smoke stack and see if it will alleviate the problem," Cavin said. "I know no one wants to breathe smoke. I could support an out-and-out ban, but not for the people who already have it until something else has been tried.

"I think we should give them a chance to do it. Maybe the reason they haven't is they don't want to invest any more," Cavin said.

Wooster and Wayne County government reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at (330) 287-1638 or e-mail bwarren@the-daily-record.com.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

January 25, 2007

Thursday, January 25, 2007
By PETER GOONAN
pgoonan@repub.com

CHICOPEE - A Chicopee homeowner said yesterday he is continuing to operate his outdoor wood-burning boiler despite a ban and a cease and desist order imposed by the Board of Health two months ago.

Robert M. McKinney, of 21 Loveland Terrace, said he is using the outdoor wood-burning furnace, attached to his house, as advised by his lawyer.

"What do you expect us to do?' McKinney said. "The whole thing has just been totally unfair in our regard."

Health and Law department officials said yesterday they are mulling legal options to force McKinney to stop using the wood-burning boiler. The Chicopee Board of Health banned boilers in November and ordered any existing boilers to be dismantled, deeming them to be public health hazards.

The city, however, is awaiting formal approval of its ban from the state Department of Environmental Protection, local and state officials said.

The Board of Health based its ban on a state statute regarding air pollution, which triggers the need for state approval of the bylaw, said Eva Tor, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection. It is unknown when the state will issue its decision.

"We are considering our options in the meantime," Associate City Solicitor Daniel P. Garvey said yesterday.

Local health officials have said that court action is possible.

Of three known outdoor wood-burning boilers in Chicopee, McKinney's is believed to be the last one operating.

Holyoke, South Hadley and Longmeadow have also banned the boilers, and some communities have imposed, or are considering imposition of moratoriums or regulations. Tor said Longmeadow's ban also needs state approval, but she was not aware if the other communities needed the same approval, depending on the procedure used to impose the ban.

McKinney said his boiler was installed in 2005, representing an investment of about $15,000, including the boiler, house alterations and subsequent improvements to the system. He expanded his smokestack, now reaching a height of 22 feet from the ground, and said he now uses cleaner wood, primarily seasoned oak and maple, to address concerns about pollution.

He said the boilers, when used correctly, burn better than fireplaces and woodstoves.

Local health officials disagree.

According to a recent study by the New England States for Coordinated Air Use Management, the typical outdoor wood boiler is only 28 percent to 55 percent efficient, which leads to a higher smoke output. In contrast, the newest models of woodstoves can be 80 percent to 85 percent efficient in turning wood to heat, the study found.

A former neighbor, Edward Nowak, filed suit against the McKinneys, saying he lost money on the sale of his house due to their boiler. McKinney said people in the neighborhood have not complained about the smoke this heating season.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

January 15, 2007

By JOHN APPLETON
jappleton@repub.com

BELCHERTOWN - While stopping short of an outright ban on outdoor wood-fired boilers, the Board of Health has enacted a moratorium that prohibits any new installations of the systems until town regulations governing them are in place.

The board has scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 5 to discuss the proposed regulations it is working on.

"We think there is some public health risk that we want to try to protect people from," Board of Health Chairman Gail L. Gramarossa said.

"On the other hand, we think that when they are used properly, you can minimize that risk to your neighbor," she said.

Chicopee, South Hadley, Longmeadow, and most recently, Holyoke, have issued outright bans of wood-fired boilers and ordered those who have them to stop using them.

West Springfield and Northampton have issued moratoriums.

Palmer's Board of Health is contacting other towns to see what their policies are concerning the wood boilers and will discuss the issue at its Feb. 13 meeting.

Belchertown's Board of Health voted on Jan. 8 for its moratorium, which says that "no person shall install an outdoor wood-fired boiler/furnace, or replace an existing outdoor wood-fired boiler/furnace that has become inoperable, in the town of Belchertown until such time as the Board of Health enacts regulations governing the installation and operations."

Gramarossa said the Belchertown board in considering regulations is looking at such things as distance of the furnace to neighboring homes and businesses, height of the chimneys, age of the furnaces, and types of wood burned.

"Some of the operators of these wood boilers talked about using the proper wood and making sure the burner is one of the more recent ones because the technology is getting better all the time," she said.

The outdoor furnaces are apt to be prohibited in the more densely populated areas of town where lot size and proximity of neighboring homes are likely to run counter to the regulations being considered.

Gramarossa said that even without the type of ban that Holyoke, South Hadley, Chicopee and Longmeadow have imposed, the Belchertown Board of Health would be able to take steps under general public health nuisance laws in cases where someone's outdoor boiler is shown to be a problem to neighbors.

The board and town Health director Judy Metcalf are following up on complaints about a wood-fired boiler on Shea Avenue, which was brought to their attention by a neighbor who brought videotape of the smoke during the Jan 8 meeting.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

News 2006

Please find below news articles from 2006 and older. 

December 30, 2006

Communities weigh boiler rules

Saturday, December 30, 2006
By GEORGE GRAHAM
ggraham@repub.com

WESTFIELD - The Whip City is joining the growing number of Western Massachusetts communities seeking to regulate the use of outdoor wood-burning furnaces or boilers.

"They seem to be a popular thing right now," outgoing City Council President Brian P. Sullivan said yesterday. "We just want to look into it before it becomes an issue."

The Building Department reports just "two or three" permit requests for the outdoor furnaces over the past year.

Sullivan said, however, that some complaints of odor have already come wafting into City Hall. Sullivan and incoming Council President Charles W. Medeiros made a motion to their fellow councilors last week seeking to explore potential regulation of the outdoor furnaces.

Some residential zones, like the densely inhabited downtown areas, may not be suitable, Sullivan said.

The motion was referred to council subcommittee.

In West Springfield, the Board of Health recently issued a moratorium on outdoor wood-burning furnaces.

Furnaces that are already in operation may continue to be used, but any new furnace is prohibited until the board can further research the subject.

The Longmeadow Board of Health will hold a public hearing on Jan. 22 on a proposal to ban the installation and use of outdoor wood-burning boilers. The board is scheduled to vote following the hearing.

Earlier this month the Longmeadow board voted to ban the boilers, and is expected to repeat that decision, but move under a different section of state law that would allow for a fine of as much as $1,000 per day for a first-time offender. The current ban provides for a fine of $100 per day.

A Chicopee couple recently filed suit in Hampden Superior Court, claiming their neighbor's use of an outdoor wood-burning boiler created a nuisance and a financial loss when they sold their home.

The suit was filed by Edward J. and Paula Nowak, against their former neighbors, Robert M. and Andrea J. McKinney, of 21 Loveland Terrace.

The Chicopee Board of Health claims the McKinneys have failed to comply with a cease-and-desist order to stop using their outdoor wood boiler, and face possible court action. The board issued a ban on the boilers in November, preceded by a moratorium. The McKinneys added the outdoor wood boiler to heat their home after receiving a permit from the city in 2005, McKinney said.

The Nowaks now live at 73 Caddyshack Drive, Chicopee, but were living at 31 Loveland Terrace.

The Nowaks claim they had a purchase and sale agreement to sell their home on Loveland Terrace in April of 2006 for $222,000, but that the sale fell through due to the
McKinney's outdoor boiler. They sold the house at a reduced price of $195,000.

The Northampton Board of Health issued a moratorium through Jan. 31; its counterpart in Holyoke did so through June 30.

Belchertown selectmen have asked that town's Board of Health to look into the issue and Hadley is considering restrictions.

Reporters Michael McAuliffe and Peter Goonan contributed to this report

December 18, 2006

Wood Boilers Cut Heating Bills. The Rub? Secondhand Smoke.

By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
Published: December 18, 2006 New York Times


Their owners proudly proclaim that they reduce dependence on foreign oil - and save thousands of dollars on heating bills each year.

Neighbors say that they create smoke so thick that children cannot play outside, and that it seeps into homes, irritating eyes and throats and leaving a foul stench.

They have spawned a rash of lawsuits and local ordinances across the country. A report last year by the New York attorney general's office found that they produce as much particle pollution in an hour as 45 cars or 2 heavy-duty diesel trucks.

The devices, outdoor wood-fired boilers, originally invented to heat farmhouses, are now a fast-growing alternative energy fad - and, depending on whom you ask, the latest suburban scourge. Scientists studying the boilers' environmental fallout estimate their numbers have doubled in the last two years, to about 150,000 nationwide.

A growing body of research about the toxins spewed by the boilers - namely carcinogens and lung-clogging particulate matter - has prompted campaigns around the country to limit their use. And next month, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to issue guidelines for states to follow in regulating the use of wood boilers. The industry, too, is working with the agency on new standards for boilers.
“These machines sound good when you buy them, but look at all the health problems you cause,” said Edward J. Nowak, who is suing his former neighbor in Chicopee, Mass., for creating a “public nuisance” by installing a boiler in his backyard.

“We taped our windows up with plastic, and we tried to be a nice neighbor, but it just got to the point where it was impossible,” said Mr. Nowak, who is retired. He said he had to move because of the constant smoke.
“People are calling up their state and federal officials in unprecedented numbers because they don't know what to do,” said Philip R. S. Johnson, a senior scientist at the Northeast States for Coordinating Air Use Management, a nonprofit association of air quality agencies in New York, New Jersey and New England. “I am getting so many calls from people complaining about their children getting sick and the nuisance of the smell, and it's just brutal to listen to their stories.”

Owners of the devices say the complaints are unfair. Peter Muller, a landscaper in Stony Point, N.Y., who bought his boiler three years ago, calls them “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”


“Every day you turn on the news they're saying lower your dependence on foreign oil,” said Mr. Muller, who gets inexpensive wood through his business and estimates his savings at $400 to $600 a month in the peak heating season. “Now I have a renewable energy source, and people are complaining.”

Since 2001, at least 50 towns or counties in New York State have instituted laws regulating the boilers, including Suffolk County, which in November effectively banned them by prohibiting their operation within 1,000 feet of a home or school.

Vermont, in the 1990s, and Connecticut, two years ago, enacted strict regulations on where boilers can be used. Washington State banned them outright, and villages and health boards in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan and Massachusetts are dealing with hundreds of complaints from people who say wood boilers are making their homes feel like campgrounds.

The boilers, which look like tool sheds topped by 12-foot smoke stacks, were originally designed for rural areas where open space - and wood - are plentiful. They generally cost about $5,000, and work by burning wood to heat water that is pumped through underground pipes to a home's plumbing and heating systems.
The boilers are creating fierce disputes virtually everywhere they turn up.

Common complaints include lung inflammation, persistent coughing and trouble breathing, not to mention foul odors. Because the boilers operate under low-oxygen conditions and smolder constantly, they produce far more smoke than traditional indoor stoves - about a dozen times more, several studies have found. They also produce 4 to 12 times the amount of fine particles, which can easily move into the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing heart and respiratory problems, according to researchers.

Joseph Tumidajewicz, another Chicopee resident, has a name for the boiler that a neighbor - not the same one as Mr. Nowak's - installed 300 feet from his home: “the presence.”
“You step outside of the house sometimes and you can feel your face getting instantly dirty,” he said. “It's unbearable.”

According to the New York attorney general, the burners produce particles that are 2.5 microns in diameter or less. A human hair measures 30 to 50 microns.

But because regulations governing them are scarce, towns that receive complaints often have no recourse other than to politely ask owners to shut them off.

Rarely does that work. Wary of responding to false alarms caused by an outdoor boiler on Pinehurst Road in Holyoke, Mass., the Fire Department sued the boiler's owners in October, and won a cease-and-desist order. Now the city is moving toward banning boilers completely.

While boilers can save money for owners with access to cheap wood, they are far more expensive to operate in suburban areas like Long Island, where a cord of wood can cost $170. A boiler can require more than a dozen cords for the winter. That cost, says Jack Eddington, a Suffolk County legislator who introduced the law restricting the boilers, leads people to resort to burning garbage, old furniture and even Christmas trees - resulting in larger, smellier and potentially more toxic smoke.

Mr. Eddington said he knew of people who collected trash solely for their boilers. “Sometimes that would make the smell worse than the smoke,” he said. “It's not a cost-saving measure if you follow the manufacturer's instructions and use only seasoned wood - meaning no sap or anything that could give out a bad toxic emission. The only way you can save money with these things is if you burn anything and everything.”

Current federal clean air laws cover indoor wood-burning devices, but the Environmental Protection Agency said that after months of requests from several states, it is working on model guidelines that states can follow to regulate outdoor wood boilers, and that it expected to be done by January. Among the guidelines will be setback requirements on how far boilers must be from homes and schools and height requirements for stacks to release smoke above ingestion levels.

John Millett, an agency spokesman, said that it has also considered establishing emissions standards, but that states are unwilling to wait the year or more the federal regulatory process could take.
So the agency has been trying to encourage manufacturers to voluntarily produce boilers, by the spring, that create about 70 percent less particulate matter.

“The manufacturers are working with E.P.A. to come up with a set of codes and standards for these furnaces that make them burn more efficiently and completely,” said Leslie Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, an industry group in Virginia. “But that's a process that takes a while because you're talking about research and development and a bunch of other things.”

Too late for Mr. Nowak, the Chicopee man who not only sued his neighbor but also sold his house because of the boiler. The neighbor did not respond to requests for an interview.
He said he first sold the house for $222,000, but after the buyer learned there was constant smoke from the boiler nearby, he demanded his money back. Mr. Nowak eventually found another buyer - after knocking $30,000 off the price. He is hoping, through the lawsuit, to reclaim that money.

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Peter Muller of Stony Point, N.Y., swears by his boiler. “Now I have a renewable energy source,” he says, “and people are complaining.”

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Joseph Tumidajewicz, top, of Chicopee, Mass., has pictures of a neighbor's boiler. “You can feel your face getting instantly dirty,” he says.

November 4, 2006

Outdoor furnace limits considered

Written by: Staff, Endeavor News, PA

Some people are looking at outdoor wood- or coalburning furnaces for home heating, hoping to trim utility bills that skyrocket in the winter months.

Coudersport Borough is among the growing number of local governments considering ordinances that limit the types of furnaces that can be used.

Goal of the proposed regulations is to prevent the furnaces from becoming a health and safety hazard and/or public nuisance.

These furnaces are typically located close to the home, with the heat delivered into the structure through an underground pipe. Emissions are vented into the air.

Coudersport's proposed ordinance would regulate

chimney height and proximity to neighboring property, while limiting use of the furnaces between April 15 and Oct. 12.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the borough's meeting offices.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

November 2, 2006

Piedmont, West Virginia

Mineral-Dailey News Tribune, Editorials Sunday, November 05, 2006
Dear Editor,

Published: Thursday, November 2, 2006 9:15 PM CST

What is in the air you are breathing?

The Federal Government has deemed that residential outdoor wood burning furnaces are one of the largest sources of toxic emissions to the atmosphere of North America.

Studies prove that short term exposure to the smoke causes eye and throat irrtation, cough and shortness of breath, while chronic exposure triggers asthma attacks, heart and lung disease and cancer. The basic design of the furnace is one of incomplete combustion, causing fuel (usually wood) to burn incompletely, smoke excessively when thermostats call for air, then to smolder until the cycle begins again and again. The smoke is thick, acrid, and high in toxic waste emissions. This is why you often see a "smoky haze" in the area of outdoor furnaces. The tiny toxic particles in the smoke pass by the body's natural filtering system and lodge deep in your lungs. One outdoor furnace pollutes more per hour than two heavy duty diesel trucks, more than forty passenger cars, more than one thousand oil furnaces, and more than eighteen hundred gas furnces.

Many states have banned or regulated the furnaces. Some regulations include the following: furnces must be installed 200 to 500 feet from the heartest residence; furnace stack or chimney must be higher than the roof line of the beighbors home if the furnace is between 200 and 500 feet from that home; furnace can only operate six minutes out of each hour; furnace permits can be suspended if odor contaminants are detectable outside the property on which land the furnace is located; and dealers must provide buyers with notice that only untreated, natural wood can be burned in the furnace.

The furnaces are being operated in West Virginia with little to no environmental, safety or performance standards. There IS a West Virginia code stating that "It is unlawful for any person to cause a statutory air pollution" and a "public policy" to achieve and maintain such levels of air quality as will protect human health and safety to the greatest degree practiceable, foster comfort and conveience for all people, etc." New York DEC and other state codes declare no person shall cause or allow emissions of air contaminants injurious to humans or property, of which uinreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life or property. I believe it is a reasonable expectations of our politicians to reponsibly recognize and protect the very quality of life where we live.

Owners of the furnace consider them to be an ideal, less expensive way to heat homes and water. How do homeowners measure the cost of their health problems resulting from the toxic smoke they are forced to breathe from a neighbor's furnace? Facts determine that approximately 155,000 units have been sold nationally since 1990. It is estimated that as many as 500,000 furnaces will be operating by 2010. West Virginia is one of the 19 states purchasing 65 percent of the furnaces.

The lives of many loved ones lost years ago have been attributed to pollution in coal mines, railroads, etc. Some died becuase they did now know the dangers; others died because they had no choice - they had to work in harms way to support their families. Industries have since invested millions to comply with environmental standards to protect and improve working conditions for employees. Would it not be equally important for us to invest attention in protecting our personal health and well being?

We now know the serious and real toxic hazards resulting from the outdoor wood burning furnaces and we now have a choice to do something about it. I am asking you and our politicians on every level to place priority on the environment, the health of our children and each other, and to follow the lead of other concerned states and ban the outdoor wood burning furnace.

Sharon Nicol

October 7, 2006

The Republican:OWBs create permitting problems

By G. Michael Dobbs, 10/7/06
Managing Editor

What is happening in Chicopee is a warning to other western Massachusetts communities as the heating season approaches.

Some Chicopee residents have installed a technology that was certainly new to me when I first heard of it: Outdoor Wood Boilers or OWBs.

OWBs are simply a wood-fired furnace situated in a shed outside a residence or building. They produce hot water, which then can be used to heat a building.

They are being sold as a way to either supplement whatever heating system you already have or to replace it. In these times of uncertain oil and natural gas prices, the idea of having a hedge is attractive to many.

Across the northeast and the northern section of the mid-west, OWBs are growing in popularity, according to Saadi Motamedi of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. In 1990 there were 195 sold in this country. In 2005, there were 67,546 units sold. The cost to purchase and install a unit is between $8,000 and $10,000 depending upon size and application.

Here's the rub, there are currently no federal standards governing efficiency or emission on OWBs, unlike indoor wood stoves, and only a hand-full of state or local regulations, Motamedi explained at a recent Chicopee aldermanic meeting.

So people can install these boilers wherever they choose unless restricted by a local regulation.

The result is one neighbor having a device that can affect the air quality of his street. The OWBs were not designed for urban areas, but they're popping up in densely populated cities. There are four in Chicopee.

This is one of these terrible situations in which no one is wrong, but someone is going to have to pay a price. The neighbors shouldn't have to endure bad air quality.

The problem is that one of these OWBs was installed only after the resident went to the city to obtain a permit for it. After a two-month period, the city's Building Department issued a permit. The trouble is that legally the city has currently no jurisdiction over the OWBs.

If the city bans the OWBs a distinct possibility the residents will lose the thousands of dollars they've invested. They will be punished even though they didn't break any regulation.

But their neighbors shouldn't pay a price either in a lessened quality of life.

In all seriousness, where's Solomon when you need him?

This is an example of a new technology out-racing a community's ability to deal with it. Other communities should take notice now before this same problem spreads.

September 22, 2006

Wood burner regulations adopted
By Sarah Menesale/ News Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2006 - Updated: 01:56 PM EST

The Board of Health has banned residents from operating outdoor wood burning boilers, hoping to fend off a possible public nuisance.

The regulations go into effect Oct. 1, and effect all boilers except the three already in town.

Those grandfathered in - one on Fisher Street, Robin Lane and Mount Pleasant Street - are able to remain in use as long as they don't become a nuisance and follow the stated regulations, the board ruled last Tuesday.

The ruling comes as a preemptive strike against the dirty boilers, McNulty explained. After attending a Department of Environmental Protection presentation on the heating devices and witnessing firsthand the mass amounts of smoke they emit in upper-state New York, McNulty didn't want more boilers coming to town.

"You can't believe the amount of smoke coming out of them. One time (in New York) I thought a house was on fire because of the smoldering smoke," McNulty said. "They're completely unregulated and there are no standards for emissions."

A permit is required to operate an existing wood boiler after Oct. 1. Only untreated wood fuel may be burned in the unit.

The outdoor burners are a wood fired boiler surrounded by a water jacket in a structure like a small shed with a short smokestack on top. The boiler heats water that is carried by piping to provide heat or hot water to a building.

Their costs range from $8,000 to $10,000.

The Board of Health held two public hearings on the subject, one in August and another last week. A second hearing was held because the first one wasn't advertised correctly. At the first meeting the board ruled on the new regulations, but had to bump back the dates a month to correct for the error.

The regulations would have gone into effect Sept. 1.

At the meeting last month two individuals attended, the owner of the boiler on Mount Pleasant Street and a neighbor of the one on Fisher Street. The neighbor expressed concerns over health effects caused by the smoke from the boiler. No residents attended last week's meeting.

The board began looking at regulations for the boilers earlier this year because the units aren't regulated by the state or the Environmental Protection Agency. The boilers can be used to burn not only wood, but anything else, which may cause toxic smoke. (SEE EDITORIAL NOTE)

"The DEP has been receiving a number of complaints about them across the state. They can emit tremendous amounts of smoke and can be used all summer long to heat hot water in the house or swimming pool," McNulty said.

Because of increasing heating costs, the boilers are cheap to run if the owner has access to free wood. McNulty was concerned more would be built in town.

The MassDEP estimates that 1,140 outdoor wood fired boilers were sold in the state through 2005.

September 22, 2006

The Republican:Ban on wood-fired boilers backed

Friday, September 22, 2006
By PETER GOONAN
pgoonan@repub.com


CHICOPEE , MA- The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last night to ask the Board of Health to ban outdoor wood fired boilers in response to recent complaints by some residents about smoke and pollution.

During a meeting at the City Hall Annex, Alderman-at-Large James K. Tillotson asked for two votes - one supporting the ban proposed by the Ordinance Committee and the other referring the matter for action by the Board of Health. Both were aoorived 12-0.
Tillotson said he conferred with the aldermen's legal counsel, Daniel Garvey, about the best way to implement the ban, and they agreed it should go through the Board of Health.

"I think the Health Department has much clearer authority when it comes to health issues," Tillotson said.
Board of Health Chairman Frank Boron, reached for comment after the meeting, said his board will ask the Law Department to draft the proposed ban, and will then hold public hearings before making a decision.

In the meantime, the Board of Health voted this week to extend its temporary moratorium on outdoor boilers until June 2007.
Aldermen said last night that it was clear from testimony, both last night and at a prior meeting of the Ordinance Committee, that outdoor boilers create a concern about public health and pose a nuisance to neighbors. The proposed ban is aimed at both new and existing boilers.

City officials know of four outdoor boilers in Chicopee. Two owners have defended their boilers, including one homeowner who received a building permit in advance and spent more than $10,000 for the boiler.

Several neighbors and nearby residents said the boilers are a health hazard due to the wood smoke that is emitted. They praised the aldermen for taking up the issue.

Joseph T. and Arelia G. Tumidajewicz of 340 Pendleton Drive, who live next to a house heated by an outdoor wood boiler, said they were very pleased by last night's vote.

"I think a lot of communities will follow Chicopee's lead," Arelia Tumidajewicz said.
Others speaking in favor of the ban last night included Janet Sinclair of Buckland, and Curt Freedman, P.E., a professor at Western New England College, who teaches energy management.

September 21, 2006

Resident seeks ban on wood boilers

The Sudbury Town Crier (townonline.com)
By Stacey Hart/ Staff Writer
Thursday, September 21, 2006

As people look for alternative and less expensive ways to heat their homes, one resident wants to make sure they are not risking the health of others.

Bob McDonald, who lives on Aaron Road, wants the Board of Health to regulate outside wood boilers in Sudbury. There are believed to be three outside wood boilers in town.

"They are unsafe and I would like to see them regulated so they are not in residential neighborhoods," he said.

McDonald met with the Board of Health last week to share his concerns and the research he had completed.

"He presented us with a lot of data to consider. We are reviewing the data and the matter, as well as independently researching it ourselves," said Lynn Geitz, a Board of Health member.

She said the board is always happy to review concerns brought before them.

Outdoor wood boilers are typically located outside the buildings they heat, often in small, insulated sheds with small smokestacks. Wood is burned in them to heat water, which then in turn provides heat and hot water to a home.

They should not be confused with chimneys or stoves regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The smoke created by the wood boilers, or more specifically the particulate pollution, is what McDonald is concerned about.

"Some of the things that are caused by these wood boilers are respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, obstructed lung disease, increased risk of cancer, genetic mutations and cardiovascular disease," he said. "That's in addition to eye irritation, throat and lung irritation that can cause headaches and it can reduce lung function in children."

The fine particles become embedded in the lungs and never go away, he said. Research McDonald has done also shows that this pollution can travel 1.5 miles.

"Even though you're not smelling the smoke you could be breathing in the particles," he said.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, an outdoor wood boiler emits as much fine particle pollution as 2 heavy-duty diesel trucks or 45 cars.

Wood smoke from these boilers is 12 times more dangerous than cigarette smoke, McDonald said.

"The American Lung Association has come out and said these are very bad. There's just overwhelming evidence that these are a health concern and people need to be aware of this," he said.

Although information was presented to the Board of Health, members will collect their own data and research to supplement what McDonald submitted.

"The information presented has not been discounted at all, but it is not without some weaknesses," Geitz said. "He has done a very thorough job."

The board is expected to discuss the issue of wood boilers again after its research is completed, she said. Geitz does not believe the town has ever received a complaint about a specific wood boiler in Sudbury.

McDonald said he presented his finding to the Board of Health to make both them and residents aware that this is a major health problem.

"People should be active and start demanding that the Board of Health stand up. I'm sure that they will, but it would be helpful if other people stepped up and said, 'We don't think it's right that we all should be impacted,'" he said.

McDonald questions whether one person who wants to save money on their heating bill has the right to impact the health of thousands of other people. There is ample research out there to prove that the smoke from outside wood boilers is not good for people to be breathing in, he said.

The state of Washington has established regulations that essentially ban these boilers and in Maryland there is a $25,000 fine for using them. Tisbury, which is on Martha's Vineyard, now requires a 900-foot buffer zone around these wood boilers.

"You have boards of health from one side of the United States to the other...and everybody in between who have sounded the alert," he said.

September 16, 2006

Outdoor Furnace Rules Pending

Written by: Staff, Endeavor News, PA

Cooler temperature earlier this week were a reminder of the punishing natural gas bills that are with us to stay.

Members of Emporium Borough Council are working their way through new regulations that would allow residents to heat their homes through outdoor furnaces, while lessening the health hazard or nuisance to neighbors.

Outdoor furnaces in place before the borough's regulations took effect several years ago may still be used due to a grandfather clause in the ordinance, but installation of new furnaces has been prohibited.

Council plans to lift the ban, replacing it with a new ordinance covering smokestack height, emissions filtering and inspections. Most outdoor furnaces burn wood or wood pellets, although some can also accommodate coal.

Borough Manager Rob Aversa said the new ordinance should be ready for Council action in the near future.

Council Vice President LuAnn Reed recommended that action be taken soon so residents who are being hit hard by utility bills will have an alternative.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

August 23, 2006

Maine ponders ban on wood-fired boilers

Bangordailynews.com
E. Millinocket,
By Nick Sambides Jr.
Wednesday,  - Bangor Daily News

EAST MILLINOCKET - The Board of Selectmen will attend Millinocket's Town Council meeting Thursday because selectmen are considering enacting their own ban of outdoor wood-fired boilers and want to see how the council addresses the issue.

The selectmen, board Chairman Mark Scally said Monday, will watch how the issue is addressed by a representative from Clean Woods Heat LLC, a startup manufacturer that plans to sell its 90,000-BTU Black Bear outdoor wood-fired boiler at its Katahdin Regional Industrial Park offices starting Sept. 1.

"At this point, there is only one [polluting outdoor boiler] in town, so we had to wonder whether we were cutting them off at the pass, or are we just creating an ordinance that isn't going to be enforced," Scally said Monday.

Millinocket Councilor Scott Gonya proposed the ban, saying several Penobscot Avenue residents live near a resident whose home-heating boiler emits so much smoke that a smoky odor has infiltrated their homes.

Penobscot Avenue residents have complained about the boiler since 2000 or 2001, Gonya said, but it wasn't until the American Lung Association opposed such boilers in June that he sought a ban, he said. New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York municipalities have banned such boilers.

Jeffrey W. Baker, co-owner of Clean Woods, agrees that such boilers usually are polluters, but his is not.

Most outdoor boilers, Baker said, produce 100 to 400 grams of particulate waste an hour. By comparison, most wood stoves today produce about 7.5 grams. His Black Bear boiler produces, at worst, about 20.3 grams of particulate waste per hour, a substantial improvement over most boilers, he said.

Baker's business partner, boiler inventor Dominic Federico, said they will attend Thursday's meeting, which is at Millinocket's town hall at 4:30 p.m.

Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue indicated he would try to alter the proposed ban to exclude banning boilers that meet voluntary proposed federal Environmental Protection Agency standards, Federico said.

This, Federico said, would ban polluting boilers while allowing use of Black Bear and other clean burners.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection officials already have tentatively endorsed the Black Bear and are expected to fully endorse it when burn tests conducted this week at an Oregon laboratory are finished, Federico said.

Clean Woods, which employs a dozen people, is ramping up its assembly line this week. It will have 25 full-timers by early September and 40 workers on its payroll by January, company officials have said. This stirs hope in the rural Katahdin region, which typically has unemployment twice the state average.

"This could be a banner business for the town," Scally said.

The Black Bear will be featured in a segment in Channel 5's program "Save My Heating Bill" next month, and a commercial on the boiler is on the company's Web site, blackbearboilers.com, Federico said.

April 20, 2006

Rockland County, NY Bans Wood Boilers

The Journal News
(Original publication: April 20, 2006) By Jane Lerner

RAMAPO - Rockland became one of the first municipalities in the state to regulate the use of outdoor wood furnaces yesterday when the Board of Health approved an amendment that all but bans the devices.
"This action is in the best interest of public health," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Joan Facelle after the board voted on the amendment to the county sanitary code.
The amendment bans the use of outdoor wood furnaces that have a firebox volume of 5 cubic feet or larger. Just about all models of the devices have a firebox larger than that.
County officials are unsure how many people in Rockland use the devices. But they say they feared use of outdoor wood burners - and the air pollution they create - would increase as the cost of home heating oil continues to rise.
During six months of debate on the issue, the board heard strong arguments both for and against regulating the furnaces.
The device, also known as an outdoor wood boiler, consists of a small shed that contains an oversize box in which unsplit logs up to 5 feet long are burned. The burning wood heats water in a reservoir around the box. The heated water is pumped through insulated underground pipes to the home, where it circulates through the heating system.
Proponents said the device was an economical heat source that should be available to people, especially as the price of heating oil soars. But opponents insisted that the furnace gives off a tremendous amount of smoke that contributes to air pollution, especially in densely populated areas like Rockland.
Peter Muller of Stony Point has an outdoor wood furnace at his home and told the board during several public hearings that it produces little smoke and heats his home efficiently.
Muller, who did not attend yesterday's meeting, said he didn't think the board investigated the issue enough before making a decision.
"Everyone tells us to lessen our dependence on foreign oil," Muller said. "Wood burning is a renewable source of energy that is more efficient than you can imagine."
Muller, a landscaper, doesn't have to buy wood. He has been able to heat his entire house with the outdoor furnace. His heating bills, which included the cost of running his cooking stove and gas-powered dryer, averaged about $13 a month during the winter, he said.
Muller said he spent nearly $17,000 on his wood furnace three years ago. He plans to apply for a waiver from the county to continue operating it.
Others told the board they supported a ban.
Lawrence McGill of New City wrote a letter to the board urging members to outlaw the devices. He said yesterday that he was glad the board took the action.
"They sound like a real menace to me," said McGill, who did not attend the meeting. "We already have far too much smoke in the air around here."
Miriam McElroy of West Haverstraw said she has to close her windows when neighbors burn wood in an indoor fireplace.
McElroy, who did not attend yesterday's meeting, said she was relieved by the county's action.
"We don't need these outdoor wood burners," she said. "We certainly don't need more pollution."
Rockland officials are unsure how many people in the county currently use the devices.
The Board of Health began debating a ban in November after a New City woman applied for permission from the town of Clarkstown to install an outdoor wood furnace at her home. The town denied the request but suggested that the county address the issue through its sanitary code.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer also is trying to limit their use because of the pollution they create.
He and officials from seven other states - including the attorneys general of Connecticut and New Jersey - sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency in August asking the federal agency to "regulate emissions from outdoor wood boilers in order to protect health and the environment."
An assemblywoman from the Binghamton area has introduced a bill that would create state regulations for outdoor wood burners because of the smoke and pollution they create.
Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo, D-Endwell, wants to prohibit the use of outdoor boilers in the summer. She also wants to restrict use of the devices within 200 feet of a residence and 700 feet of a hospital, school, day-care center, nursing home, park or recreational facility.
The proposal is pending.
The federal EPA is considering emission standards for such devices.
The new Rockland amendment states that people cannot operate an outdoor wood furnace with a firebox of more than five cubic feet until guidelines and standards are set by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The measure must be submitted to the state for approval, which is expected to take about a month.
Currently, there are no state or federal standards for the devices.
"This allows for the possibility in the future to consider it if there are standards that we can measure," Facelle said.

Waivers possible

The Rockland Board of Health will consider granting waivers to anyone who already has an outdoor wood boiler. For more information, call the department at 845-364-2608.
Board of Health fines


Board of Health fines

In other action at yesterday's Board of Health meeting, the board assessed fines on businesses and individuals who violated the county's sanitary code.

o Hopkins Pub Ltd., doing business as Mt. Ivy Pub, routes 45 and 202, was fined $1,000 for violating regulations concerning indoor smoking.

o TNP Pizza Corp., operator, Villa Rosa, 275 N. Main St., Spring Valley, was fined $800 for repeatedly leaving food at a potentially hazardous temperature.

o Central Avenue Pizza Corp., operator, Mr. Crispy's Brick Oven Pizza, was fined $600 for storing food at potentially hazardous temperatures.

o Tina Freeman, owner, 33 W. Burda Place, New City, was fined $200 for failure to put a gate around a swimming pool.

o Affordable Community Inc., owner, 52 Bethune Blvd., Spring Valley, was fined $200 for housing code violations.

o Rifka Meitels, owner, 440 Viola Road, Spring Valley, was fined $200 for housing code violations.

2006

Evansville City Council The Issue: Council bans new outdoor wood-burning boilers.

News:© 2006 The Evansville Courier Co.

The Evansville City Council gave a break Monday to city residents who own outdoor wood-fired boilers used for heating their homes, but it decided that no new installations would be allowed within the city limits.
This appears part of a widespread effort to quash the use of these low-cost but high-polluting devices. The Indianapolis Air Board has already passed a ban on new installations, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has been collecting information and opinions on outdoor wood boilers in terms of possibly adopting a state rule on their use.
While there are relatively few of these boilers in use in Evansville and in Indianapolis, they have come under fire for the large amount of smoke they put out, smoke that lays low to the ground and can easily reach a neighbor's home, especially in an urban setting. The council attempted to deal with that problem by requiring the installation of high stacks, up where the smoke would more easily disperse.
But after an owner of one of these boilers complained that the cost of a 40-foot stack would put him out of business and would be dangerous, the council dropped the requirement.
Anyway, this issue seems to affect very few people in Evansville and has likely already been forgotten by most.
But we were wondering, smoke is smoke, isn't it? And it contains some nasty stuff, including particulate matter, which is the latest bane to good air quality in the Evansville area.
Might the issue one day not be these little-used boilers but instead be fireplaces and wood stoves?
Might this movement against wood-burning boilers be an omen of things to come for those of us who enjoy that warm and fuzzy symbol of winter coziness, the fireplace?
We've found no figures on the effects on the air of wood stoves and fireplaces, compared with these boilers, but Dona Bergman, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, says that the boilers have low efficiency, 30 percent to 40 percent, and that the particulate pollution from one of them is equal to an incredible 1,800 gas furnaces.
Still, a lot of us have fireplaces or wood stoves. There is no telling how much particulate matter all of us together send out our chimneys on a winter morning.
It's unlikely any local politician is going to take on that number of fireplace-loving voters, but be warned, it is coming, one of these days.How do we know?
It has already started on the West Coast, where groups in some communities are pointing to the pollution caused by wood-burning fireplaces. Their message: Don't burn wood. And you know what they say about the West Coast: Everything that happens here happens first on the West Coast.

OLDER NEWS

Because I created this page in early 2008 I have been unable to locate many "free" news stories pertaining to Outdoor Wood Boilers pre-2006. There certainly are a large amount of news stories pre-2006,  however in order to access the full articles a subscription to the news service is required. We of course do not have the funds to purchase all of these news stories. 

We want to assure you that because this page does not have as many stories that this doesn't negate from Outdoor Wood Furnaces from being problems pre-2006.If you have an article predating 2006 please send it to me at freedomofair@yahoo.com

As you can see that these have been a problem dating back nearly 7 years for some people, yet our national and state leaders still refuse to handle the problem at the state/federal level.

How many years will it take for justice to be served for all Americans, where they can have clean air to breathe? We only wish we knew...... ?

November 10, 2005

Fired up [Wood fired boilers, do they need to be regulated?

Country Today | 11-10-05 | Megan Parker

Posted on Thursday, November 10, 2005

Because of high fuel costs many Wisconsin residents are turning to outdoor wood-fired boilers to heat their homes and businesses. But opponents say the boilers, because they’re not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, belch noxious smoke.

Keith Radke says his outdoor wood-fired boiler is cost-effective and safe. “We haven’t regretted it for a minute,” said Mr. Radke, a Wilton-area dairy farmer. But several Wisconsin municipalities don’t feel the same way and have banned outdoor wood-fired boilers because of reports of health and environmental hazards.

Keith Radke says his outdoor wood-fired boiler is cost-effective and safe.

“We haven’t regretted it for a minute,” said Mr. Radke, a Wilton-area dairy farmer.

But several Wisconsin municipalities don’t feel the same way and have banned outdoor wood-fired boilers because of reports of health and environmental hazards.

“We get a substantial number of complaints about outdoor wood-fired boilers,” said Kevin Kessler, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources open-burning team leader.

Mr. Kessler said he has received a half-dozen complaints but couldn’t say how many other DNR staff members have received.

“They do create nuisances for neighbors if they’re installed in the wrong place,” he said.

Wood-fired boilers are natural- or forced-draft wood stoves surrounded by a water jacket. They typically are in insulated sheds built a distance from buildings and are connected to home heating or hot water systems by underground pipes.

People who live near boilers have complained to DNR officials of health problems, including asthma in children and headaches, Mr. Kessler said.

At issue is the pollution boilers emit.

“Before the DNR started measuring particulate levels, I would’ve thought that it was primarily a nuisance issue between neighbors,” said Dave Leibl of the UW-Extension Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center.

But Mr. Leibl said his work writing fact sheets on the boilers has shown him the stoves aren’t good for humans or the environment.

“I think the real challenge here is to convince people that the health effects and potential for health effects are real,” he said.

Government reports

Mr. Leibl and other boiler opponents cite an August report by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office.

“Even when used properly, (outdoor wood boilers) emit, on an average per hour basis, about four times as much particulate matter as conventional wood stoves, about 12 times as much fine particle pollution as (Environmental Protection Agency)-certified wood stoves, 1,000 times more than oil furnaces and 1,800 times more than gas furnaces,” the report said.

The EPA has regulated indoor wood furnaces since 1992, but outdoor wood-fired boilers aren’t regulated.

In August the attorneys general for New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Vermont and the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management petitioned the EPA to establish emission standards for wood boilers.

In their petition they wrote, “The pollutants emitted by OWBs can cause or contribute to short-term health harms such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing and shortness of breath, and long-term health effects such as asthma, heart and lung disease and cancer.”

In September, Wisconsin DNR Secretary Scott Hassett wrote a letter to the EPA to call for a national strategy to control emissions from outdoor wood boilers.

He wrote that the boilers are problems because of their short stacks that don’t disperse smoke and their primitive combustion designs. He wrote that the boilers belch thick, noxious smoke.

“For neighbors that are continuously exposed to the smoke, OWBs are a very real and significant public health concern,” he wrote.

Manufacturers disagree

Rodney Tollefson, vice president of Central Boiler in Greenbush, Minn., said a 1998 EPA test shows that a Central Boiler outdoor stove and an EPA-certified indoor wood stove produced the same amount of emissions when heating the same size home.

“We would choose to test our furnace to an EPA standard if we could,” Mr. Tollefson said. “We are very involved in the creation of a standard.”

Steve Larson, marketing and sales manager at The Wood Master in Red Lake Falls, Minn., said East Coast groups and agencies have made smoke into a social issue, not a scientific one, and want the boilers banned.

“We have nothing against any kind of particulates standard. But just for an outright ban seems pretty un-American,” he said.

Central Boiler representatives recommend customers install chimneys tall enough to disperse smoke.

“You need to assure that you don’t create a nuisance,” Mr. Tollefson said.

Robert Govett, a UW-Stevens Point natural resources professor, said the stoves make sense only in rural areas.

“If you’re burning seasoned wood and burning it properly, they’re probably not a big problem,” he said.

Popularity heats up

With fuel costs rising, many people are turning to outdoor wood-fired stoves to heat their homes or businesses.

Mr. Tollefson said sales are up this fall at Central Boiler.

He cited advantages to the boilers such as more comfortable heat and improved safety because heat is produced outside the home.

“I always felt that the safety was worth more,” Mr. Radke said.

Some argue that the boilers make sense for the environment because they use a renewable resource that can be grown locally.

“Man has been heating himself with wood since man’s been on this earth,” Mr. Larson said.

Inefficiency arguments

Opponents contend the stoves are poorly made and inefficient.

“Things don’t have to puke smoke like that,” said John Gulland of The Wood Heat Organization, a Canada nonprofit, nongovernment agency that promotes responsible use of wood for heating. The group maintains a Web site at www.woodheat.org.

Mr. Gulland said his organization’s gripe is with manufacturers.

“They lie through their teeth. Why? Because they’re utterly unregulated. There are no standardized testing procedures,” he said. “The buyer, of course, can’t distinguish the truth from who’s lying. It is very much buyer-beware.”

Mr. Gulland said the boilers are so inefficient that users need to burn twice as many trees as should be needed.

He also said any wood combustion chamber should be surrounded by firebrick, that using a water jacket “is pretty much the worst thing you can do.”

Mr. Larson said water is the most efficient way to transport heat and preserves the boiler.

“It allows the furnace to last longer because it does keep everything cooler,” he said.

Mr. Kessler said the thermostat-controlled damper starves the fire for oxygen, making the fire smolder and smoke.

Full Article: CLICK HERE

August 3, 2003

Taking heat: Outdoor wood-burning furnace fuels controversy in West Hurley

By Jesse J. Smith , Freeman staff

WOOD-BURNING furnaces are touted by manufacturers as a clean, cheap and efficient alternative to gas and oil heat. But for Michael Hoehing, the heating method has been anything but convenient.

The disabled former X-ray technician has been embroiled in a battle with town officials since last year, when he installed an outdoor wood furnace to heat an indoor swimming pool and an addition to his home on Max's Place in West Hurley.

"I don't get it," Hoehing said. "Why am I the only person in town who's not allowed to burn wood?"

According to Hoehing, the trouble started in the spring of 2002 when his neighbors, Richard and Pat Davis, complained about the smoke coming from the furnace, which was installed in September 2001. Since then, Hoehing has been in and out of Hurley Town Court to answer charges leveled by town Building Inspector Paul Economos that the unit violates town ordinances. Hoehing has stopped using the furnace under orders from Town Justice Athena Groelle.

"It's very simple," Economos said. "When he burns this device, it pollutes the air. The smell is so noxious that it is affecting the quality of life of his neighbors, and that violates a rather vague section of the zoning law." The building inspector also said that, while Hoehing received the necessary building permits for the 1,600-square-foot addition to his raised ranch home, there is no record of a permit for the furnace.

Hoehing said he built the addition with money from a settlement with his former employers after suffering an serious injury on the job in 1993. The heated indoor pool, he said, helps ease the arthritis that has afflicted him since the accident, and Hoehing says he could not afford to heat the pool and the addition with oil or gas.

"If the town had told me from the beginning that I couldn't use the furnace here, I would have found another way to do it or I would have moved," he said. "I got all the proper permits. (Economos' predecessor) was out here during the construction and now, all of a sudden, I'm not allowed to burn."

Patricia Davis said she is sympathetic to Hoehing's plight but believes he installed the unit without carefully considering the environmental impact.

"Our bedroom smells like a fire sale," she said. "He decided to put in the furnace, but unfortunately, he didn't do his homework on the ramifications of that. He listened to the salesman instead."

Mrs. Davis said this is not about neighbors disagreeing, but rather a violation of state regulations regarding burn emissions. She said the state Department of Environmental Conservation has performed opacity tests that determined the smoke emitted from the furnace is thicker than regulations allow.

One problem, Hoehing said, is that there are no hard-and-fast rules that would allow him to bring the stove into compliance.

Since the controversy over the furnace began, and at the suggestion of Economos and the furnace's manufacturer, Hoehing has tried several fixes, including raising the unit's smokestacks and changing the type of fuel he uses.

"They keep telling me to change things. I do it. Then they come out and say, 'Well, that didn't work. Here's another fine,'" Hoehing said.

Economos agreed that Hoehing has cooperated in looking for a solution, but he added that, as long as the smoke is impacting on the quality of life of neighbors, he has no choice but to enforce the law.

"Michael has a legitimate complaint," Economos said of Hoehing. "The guy lives out in the country, but he can't burn wood. But ultimately, my concern is for health and safety. If his neighbors are breathing creosote, that's not acceptable."

Full Article: CLICK HERE

News Archive 2006 and Older