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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Environment - More on: After 5 years of study, proposal to regulate outdoor wood-fired boilers moves to a preliminary hearing before the APCB

Updating this ILB entry from June 2, 2010 (and a long list of earlier ILB entries), Rick Callaahan of the AP has a story today on the proposed rules. Some quotes:

A five-year effort to restrict use of outdoor wood-burning furnaces is nearing a vote before a state panel, raising concerns from some rural residents who rely on the devices to heat their homes and water.

An estimated 8,000 Indiana residents use the furnaces, called wood boilers or hydronic heaters, to heat their homes during cold weather. Wood burned inside them heats water that's then tapped to both warm homes and provide hot water.

But some neighbors who live downwind of the devices say their exhaust fills their yards with choking, irritating fumes and forces them to keep their windows closed much of the year.

Northern Indiana resident James Donnelly said that since a neighbor installed a wood boiler six years about 270 feet from his rural LaPorte County home, he and his wife, Susan, have endured smoke that's ruined their quality of life.* * *

Scott Deloney, chief of IDEM's Office of Air Quality, said in some cases the air near one of the outdoor boilers can exceed the federal health standard for fine particulate matter. Those tiny particles can worsen respiratory problems, such as asthma, in the elderly, children and people sensitive to smoke and soot.

While wood boilers are mostly in rural areas, they can also be found in small towns and cities where they're more likely to generate complaints due to the proximity of homes.

Deloney said IDEM hopes the rules, once approved, can clear the air and provide protections for residents who've complained of breathing problems and burning eyes.

"We've heard from people who say it's absolutely intolerable, and certainly some people are very sensitive to smoke," he said. "Others have complained that smoke has gotten into their draperies and furniture."

The Indiana Air Pollution Control Board could vote on preliminary approval of the rules as soon as July 13, after a public hearing in Indianapolis. The earliest the draft rules could get final approval would be early next year.

If that happens, Indiana would join about a dozen other states with boiler restrictions.

The state's proposed rules include a requirement that all new wood boilers sold, installed or purchased in the state be certified through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that endorses only boilers with low emissions levels.

Another provision would require boilers within 150 feet of another home to have a chimney that's at least five feet higher than the nearest home's roof to disperse the smoke.

But what's most upset wood boiler owners is a proposal to ban their use in June, July and August if an occupied residence is less than 300 feet away. Those homeowners would need to buy a water heater to provide hot water in those three months.

Jodi Perras, executive director of Improving Kids' Environment, said she and others worried about the health impact of wood boiler smoke favored an earlier version of the draft rules that called for a ban from May 1 to Sept. 30 - the state's main smog season.

Deloney said the summer ban was scaled back because boiler owners complained that they sometimes need to heat their homes when cold spells hit in May and September.

Despite the shorter summer ban, Perras said she's glad the state is moving to put restrictions on boilers. She said a provision that would permit homeowners to burn only clean woods - those not treated or varnished - and renewable solid fuels is also badly needed.

"Right now you can burn anything you want to in one of those things, and people do," Perras said. "Responsible owners don't, but there are some who throw treated wood or even their trash into them, trash that could contain household chemicals."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 19, 2010 06:25 PM
Posted to Environment