2010 March 10: PA Jefferson Township (Lackawanna County): Use of wood stoves becomes burning issue in Jefferson Twp.

2010 March 10: PA Jefferson Township (Lackawanna County): Use of wood stoves becomes burning issue in Jefferson Twp.

By Megan Reiter (Staff Writer)
Published: March 10, 2010
A Lackawanna County judge’s recent ruling that bans a Jefferson Twp. couple from using their wood-burning furnace is one example of an issue that is cropping up across the state as residents seek less expensive ways to stay warm.
Judge Thomas J. Munley last month signed an order calling an outdoor wood-burning furnace on the property of Edward and Jean Kuniegal "a private nuisance."
The order also prohibits the Kuniegals from using the furnace within 1,500 feet of their neighbors’ property lines, or burning any materials other than those approved by the stove manufacturer or the Environmental Protection Agency.
"We’ve gotten complaints, and I think it’s been an issue," Mark Carmon, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said about wood-burning furnaces. The increase in their use, he said, "is being driven by the cost of fuel, obviously."
According to court documents, Mr. Kuniegal testified that one of the reasons he and his wife use the outdoor furnace is to keep their heating costs down.
The Kuniegals’ neighbors, Lisa Cummings and Michael and Debra Santarsiero, told the court they had health concerns about the smoke emitted from the furnace. Mrs. Santarsiero compared the smell to "living by a landfill," according to court documents.
"My clients were very pleased with Judge Munley’s ruling," said attorney Joseph G. Price, who is representing Ms. Cummings and the Santarsieros.
This was the second time the neighbors were in court over the issue. Attorney John T. Zelinka, who is representing the Kuniegals, said his clients upgraded to a new $15,000 furnace they felt was better for the environment after the first court order. Since the Kuniegals use the furnace to heat their water, stopping use of the outdoor furnace "will be an immediate issue," Mr. Zelinka said.
"An appeal is likely, but we haven’t made that decision yet," he said.
Mr. Zelinka said Jefferson Twp. does not have an ordinance in place regarding the use of outdoor wood-burning furnaces.
The state Environmental Quality Board has been holding public hearings throughout Pennsylvania to gather input, and is considering establishing regulations for the furnaces that include limiting emission, setback requirements, stack heights and fuel requirements, Mr. Carmon said.
"With these furnaces, there’s a temptation to stray beyond what the manufacturer recommends" in terms of fuel, Mr. Carmon said.
Contact the writer: mreiter@timesshamrock.com
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