2010 Feb. 28: IN LaPorte: COMMENTS on New rules would restrict wood-fired boilers
LAPORTE — Wood-fired boilers that send soot and dust from backyard smokestacks could face tougher regulations under rules proposed by Indiana environmental officials.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management wants to restrict the burning season to September through May and cut smoke limits in half. Stacks would have to be 5 feet higher than the top roof of neighboring homes within 150 feet of the unit.
New units would also have to be more efficient and burn clean, dry wood that smokes less.
IDEM says it hopes the rule will help protect air quality and prevent conflict between neighbors.
The boilers used to heat houses spew smoky emissions that can be unhealthy for children, the elderly and people with heart or lung ailments.
State officials say a wood-burning heater can emit as much particulate matter as 50 to 500 idling diesel trucks — air discharges that can sicken people living near those emissions.
Boiler emissions also contain formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing benzene.
IDEM spokesman Rob Elstro said the draft rules would require all newly sold units to be certified through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary outdoor wood-boiler heater program and meet certain emission limits.
“This will ensure that Indiana’s air quality will be protected as more and more units are installed,” Elstro told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville.
IDEM accepted comments on the proposed regulations during a public comment period that ended Feb. 22.
Jim Donnelly of LaPorte is ready for them to take effect.
Donnelly has been bothered by smoke released by a neighbor’s unit and is concerned about how his neighbor’s smoky emissions might hurt local property values.
“We have to have our home shut all the way through the heating season,” he said. “We do wake up in the mornings with sore throats and headaches so it’s not a fun thing.”
His neighbor, Chris Furness, said he installed the boiler in 2004 to heat his house through an underground pump and cut down on utility bills. He estimates the $5,000 boiler saves him about $2,000 per heating season.
To appease Donnelly and meet LaPorte County ordinances, Furness extended the smokestack on his freestanding unit twice, from 2 feet to 32 feet.
“Now that the stack is on there, I never smell it, ever. I’m the closest one to it,” said Furness, a firefighter.
But Donnelly says even if smoke stacks are tall, inversion where hot meets cold air will force smoke to the ground.
IDEM’s newly drafted rules mirror LaPorte County’s wood-boiler ordinance.
Wood-fired boilers are banned in Michigan City, but Donnelly said 140 units exist in LaPorte County, where they’re allowed with restrictions.
Cindy Kreske, office manager at the LaPorte County building commissioner’s office, said the office makes sure that chimneys are tall enough and meet other county stipulations.
“But even wood-burning stoves, it’s the same thing. Even at my house, even though the chimney has that height, you can still smell the smoke,” she said.
Wood-burning units may also be adding to the air quality woes of counties that don’t meet federal air standards. Those counties can’t attract major new industrial facilities without reducing their own air pollution or making an existing facility reduce its pollution.
Cowgirl wrote on Mar 1, 2010 12:49 PM:
Boiler emissions also contain formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing benzene." That is a fact! Wood boilers are MORE dangerous than vehicle emissions. It’s not a "small-town politics" issue, it’s a national health issue! And Marge — there are several different types of woodburners and the one your neighbor has may be one of the safer kinds, or a different kind altogether (not a boiler). Those of you who are so quick to jump on the negativity bandwagon need to at least read the article first, and then perhaps do a little research on your own before jumping to conclusions. It just may be your own health — and your property values — that you save. "
Outdoor wood boilers emit more wood smoke and associated pollutants than other wood-burning appliances due to design characteristics such as the water-filled jacket surrounding the firebox, which acts to cool the fire and leads to incomplete combustion. The basic design of the OWB encourages a slow, cooler fire, to maximize the amount of heat transferred from the fire to the water. Slow, cooler fires, however, burn inefficiently and create more smoke and creosote than higher temperature fires.
The problem is exacerbated when operators burn particleboard, treated, stained, painted, wet or freshly cut wood, which can release very toxic chemicals. Burning plastic and treated wood also releases heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as dioxins. Exposure to dioxins can cause skin problems, reproductive or developmental problems, and may even increase the risk of cancer.
Outdoor wood boilers also typically have short stack heights in comparison to other wood-burning appliances, contributing to ambient levels of particulates at ground level (an issue which is addressed in the article above).
Wood smoke contains a mixture of at least 100 different compounds in the form of gases and fine sooty particulate matter (PM). Some of the major components of wood smoke are on EPA’s list of six "criteria pollutants" in the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS), including ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, PM, and sulfur dioxide. The six criteria pollutants were singled out by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the negative impacts of these pollutants on human health, which include coughing and difficult or painful breathing, increased susceptibility to respiratory illness like pneumonia and bronchitis, eye and nose irritation, hospitalization for heart or lung diseases, and premature death.
These boilers are already prohibited in many states, and at least regulated in most. In addition, many individual cities, towns, counties, etc. have ordinances prohibiting or regulating their use. People need to understand that this is not just a local issue. "