2010 Jan. 25: RI: Bill would restrict wood boilers
Bill would restrict wood boilers
01:00 AM EST on Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By Peter B. Lord
Journal Environment Writer
Outdoor wood boilers in Rhode Island are finally facing some government restrictions.
The state Department of Environmental Management has proposed new regulations that would ban the sale of outdoor wood boilers that fail to meet the so-called Phase 2 emission standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If approved, the rules would go into effect March 31.
Also, the House of Representatives is once again considering a law that would allow the DEM and municipalities to impose a broad range of measures to reduce the chances the stoves would create nuisances by spewing smoke onto neighbors’ properties.
Last year, a House committee heard impassioned testimony from Foster residents who said a neighbor’s outdoor wood boiler was polluting their property and making their lives miserable. The House passed a bill to regulate the boilers, but it died in the Senate. A similar bill is now under consideration.
Outdoor wood boilers are similar to wood stoves, but generally much larger. They are installed in outbuildings where they heat water that is piped underground to houses and businesses. High-end boilers burn relatively cleanly and efficiently. But some owners have been known to close the dampers so the stoves burn more slowly and create more pollutants. Some people have stuffed them with garbage and even tires.
The state DEM said last year it did not have the authority to regulate stove operations and locations without new legislation. But, Douglas McVay, acting chief of air resources at the DEM, says the agency believes it has the authority to regulate sales and installation of the stoves in Rhode Island.
The EPA voluntary regulations prohibit the sales of stoves unless they have been certified to emit 0.32 pounds of particulate matter per million British Thermal Units of output.
McVay said there was a concern because Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have enacted the EPA restrictions. Rhode Island officials feared some manufacturers would empty their inventories of less-efficient stoves by selling them in Rhode Island.
State Rep. Raymond E. Gallison, Jr., D-Bristol, a cosponsor of the legislation, said he hoped to find a Senate sponsor of the bill this year to improve its chances of passage.
The new bill would prohibit the operation of the boilers between April 1 and Oct. 15, set tougher emission standards and establish certain parameters — stoves would have to be 100 feet from the nearest property and have stacks two feet taller than the roof of the building they are heating, as well as every other roof within 300 feet.
The bill would require municipal building officials to review installation applications. Local officials could also prohibit the boilers in certain zoning districts.
The DEM would require salespeople to notify buyers of the new regulations as well as lists of acceptable fuels.
The American Lung Association in Rhode Island has endorsed the bill. Molly Clark, manager of health promotion and public policy wrote: “Cases throughout New England have documented trespass of smoke from [outdoor wood boilers] on the property and lungs of neighbors, threatening their health and the use of their homes. If the pollutant trespassing was sewage, no one would question the need to stop the pollution. It is time that Rhode Island takes action.”
RI proposes tougher rules for outdoor wood boilers
DEM is proposing the restrictions, according to a spokesman, because several nearby states have already passed similar measures and that might prompt some manufacturers to clean out their inventories by selling their less efficient boilers in Rhode Island.
Outdoor wood boilers are basically extra large wood stoves that are located in separate buildings. They heat water that is piped into houses and businesses for heat. Originally, they were a low-cost method to heat farm buildings. But complaints have grown as people in suburban neighborhoods install the stoves and the smoke annoys neighbors.
The General Assembly considered a bill last year to regulate installation of the boilers, but it failed to pass. It is considering a new bill this year that would empower DEM and municipal governments to regulate the location and installation of the boilers..
It’s one thing if someone out in the middle of twenty acres has an outdoor woodboiler, but when people are installing and using them in an area in which they are interfering with the air quality of other homeowners something has to be done. Some people just have no consideration of their neighbors. In the middle of "downtown" Mapleville there is a home that has one of these outdoor boilers and nearly everytime I drive by there is a cloud of smoke hanging over the roadway in front of their home and bleeding over onto other peoples’ property. It’s ridiculous, I don’t know how the neighbors put up with it.
I’m all for woodburning–we have a woodstove and would never part with it–but people have to know what they are doing, they have to know how to burn wood properly to keep the smoke to a minimum (95% of the time you would never see smoke coming out of our chimney because we burn seasoned wood and we burn it hot) and people need to have consideration of their neighbors.
It’s a shame this sort of thing isn’t common sense, but some people just don’t care about being a good neighbor.
For really good information on woodburning people should visit http://www.woodheat.org.