Thursday, September 21, 2006
Ind. Law - Communities seek to regulate outdoor wood-fired boilers
PORTAGE | Outdoor wood-burning furnaces may provide a good alternative to rising home heating fuel costs, but some local officials worry they could harm the environment and human health.
The Environmental Management Policy Committee of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission is working on drafting a sample ordinance for area municipalities aimed at regulating the devices.
"We're for wood-burning as a heat source and support that, but the problem with outdoor furnaces is they are unregulated, they are separate buildings and there are emissions problems," said Porter County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke, who serves as chairman of NIRPC's executive board.
"When this thing belches out heavy, black smoke, if the chimney is not above the other homes in the area, the smoke churns out at street level."
Outdoor furnaces differ greatly from wood-burning stoves or outdoor patio fireplaces. The units -- which are about the size of a backyard storage shed -- burn wood to heat water or air that is pumped back into the home. Each unit can heat a building anywhere form 1,800 square feet to 20,000 square feet in size.
Most stack heights range from 8 to 10 feet above ground level, whereas traditional chimneys are situated above the roof line and typically stand 20 to 30 feet above ground level.
According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, pollutants caused by outdoor furnaces include particulate matter, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds including formaldehyde, benzene, polycyclate, aromatic hydrocarbons and a number of other trace chemicals.
IDEM requested public comments on a proposal for developing rules governing outdoor furnaces in December 2005, but the state has yet to take any action.
The state sought comment on which course of action it should take, including establishing emission standards for outdoor furnaces, restricting the type of and use of outdoor furnaces, banning outdoor furnaces or partially banning them or a combination of the options.
Breitzke said the issue was held up, "because of political pressure from downstate and to the east."
"The Amish community has been opposed to this being regulated and some people on large farms," he said. "I can understand that, but when it is being done in a suburban setting next to somebody's house, something has to be done."
The furnaces cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to purchase and install, Breitzke said.
While there are very few outdoor wood-burning furnaces in the region currently -- NIRPC members could only think of one at a residence in downtown Chesterton -- Breitzke said he expects to see them popping up soon, and in more affluent subdivisions.
He suggests the sample ordinance being worked on by NIRPC include a minimum chimney height and regulations on the distance between buildings where outdoor furnaces are used.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 21, 2006 04:24 PM
Posted to Environment