2010 March 21: MN North St. Paul: COMMENT: Wood Smoke gaining attention: Recreational Fires Must Be Eliminated

2010 March 21: MN North St. Paul: COMMENT: Wood Smoke gaining attention: Recreational Fires Must Be Eliminated

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wood smoke gaining attention

More people around the country are recognizing the health hazards associated with wood smoke pollution. But not the members of the city council in North St. Paul, MN . They don’t care how smoky our air gets.

Wood smoke pollution increases risk of bronchiolitis in infants.


(Infants) who lived in a higher wood smoke exposure area had an increase of eight percent in their risk of bronchiolitis.

The city leaders of Fairbanks, Alaska, are concerned about wood smoke pollution.

Fairbanks, AK

The mayor’s proposed measure sets limits on the types of solid-fuel burning devices, or wood and coal stoves, that can be installed in the borough. It limits the kinds of fuels that can be burned and sets fines for chimney smoke pollution. It also establishes government subsidies to encourage people to swap their dirty stoves for cleaner ones.

A mandate by the federal government to clean up the air prompted the measure, which is drawing both praise and angry opposition in the community.

Wood smoke is believed to be the No. 1 contributor of airborne fine particulate matter, which scientists say is unhealthy. The average particulate level in Fairbanks air exceeds federal guidelines.

I will contact the federal EPA soon. I am certain that wood smoke so heavy it burns your sinuses is in violation of guidelines. Heavy wood smoke is normal in North St. Paul because of city council members Jan Walczak, Bob Bruton, Terry Furlong, and Dave Zick.

Partial bans on wood burning in the San Francisco Bay area.

Bay Area

Complaints by Bay Area residents about neighbors lighting wood fires on no-burn nights rose 63 percent in the second season of a smoke rule, regional clean air regulators reported Wednesday.

Sunday was the end of the four-month burn season. During that time, the air district bans wood fires in fireplaces, stoves and pellet stoves when Spare the Air alerts are issued during episodes of cold, stagnant air that can trap smoke near the ground.

Critics accused the air district of acting like Scrooge on the holidays, but the news coverage drew attention to the rule aimed at protecting the public from asthma attacks, and lung and heart ailments aggravated by smoke .

Smoke police

On cold, calm days, residential smoke pools in the greater San Francisco basin, hazing the air. It’s the largest source of the region’s fine particulate, accounting for 30 percent of its volume throughout the nine counties of the Air District, and as much as 70 percent in Marin and Napa. When inhaled, these particles aggravate asthma and chronic heart disease.

Today in the Bay Area, 70 inspectors work to help suppress illegal wood burning — at times by literally following their noses. Each inspector is responsible for about 20,000 chimneys.

During a wood-smoke ban, inspectors take on two extra patrols of two hours each in the morning and evening. On foot or by Prius, they cruise a neighborhood, sniffing out rogue chimneys. Often they drive to a high point to survey rooftops for telltale wisps. Like stalking hunters, they always start downwind.

The leaders in the San Francisco bay area recognize the hazards of wood smoke pollution. That means Jan Walczak wants us all to suffer asthma and heart ailments. She does not care about wood smoke pollution. Her neighbor across the street has used their fireplace almost all winter during the evenings. I’ve seen his chimney belching a stream of smoke right at his neighbor’s house. Does Jan Walczak care about her neighbors including the children who live next door? Apparently not.

Connecticut is considering adding wood smoke as a health nuisance and banning the use of outdoor fireplaces from April 15th to October 15th.


A Canadian resident urges the government to put an end to wood smoke pollution in a letter to a newspaper.


Our journey now is telling us millions in Canada are suffering greatly from the effects of toxic woodsmoke pollution. It happens continuous, day after day. Our loved ones, friends, and neighbours are becoming so ill, and feeling so hopeless. What are we doing to help as they suffer in silence? They suffer because no one in government is willing to take the proper steps to address this grave danger.

Our local leaders are doing nothing about the dangers posed by wood smoke pollution. Mayor Kuehn is the only one sympathetic to our plight. Bob Bruton surely is not. He loves wood smoke pollution.

Stillwater, MN, bans outdoor wood boilers.


After Jeff Shaleen lost his job last year at Andersen Corp. in Bayport, he began looking for ways to cut costs. At the top of his list was his heating bill, which ran about $250 a month in the winter.

So Shaleen worked out a deal for cheap wood with a friend who owns a tree service, then spent about $8,000 installing an outdoor wood-fired boiler behind his house in Stillwater. His heating bill dropped to about $45 a month, and he figures he has saved more than $1,000 this winter.

But Shaleen’s money-saving measure comes with a price: smoke billows from the stack of a small shed in his back yard at 916 Holcombe St.

After neighbors complained, city officials decided to put a damper on Shaleen’s plan. Outdoor wood boilers will be banned in the city starting later this month.

"They are a public nuisance because the smoke they produce is a public health concern," Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said. "I think the city council was surprised by the volume of negative responses from neighbors. They were particularly concerned about the asthma and respiratory complaints."

It is nice to see some local officials somewhere concerned about the hazards of wood smoke pollution. Our city leaders are not concerned. They plainly do not care.

Indiana considers restrictions on wood-fired boilers.


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.

The boilers used to heat houses spew smoky emissions that can be unhealthy for children, the elderly and people with heart or lung ailments.

Australians recognize hazards of wood smoke pollution.


The Legislative Assembly will review wood heater use in Canberra in an attempt to improve air quality.

She said Canberrans were not aware of the health impacts of wood-fired heaters.

”We were calling on the Government to expand the wood heater buy-back scheme. Calling on them to look at strengthening regulation and also looking at publishing air quality data so people are aware of what impacts wood smoke has,” Ms Bresnan said.

Localities around the country are taking action against wood smoke pollution. But not ours. We must have the worst city council in the country.

Posted by North St. Paul Resident at 3:26 PM


The air is smoky from burning wood in North St. Paul, MN, all the time. It is a nightmare. What used to be a nice place to live has become a living hell.

Fresh air is very rare around here. If you are considering moving to North St. Paul or buying a home here, I strongly recommend that you do not do it no matter how good of a price you get. The only way you will be happy in this town is if you love breathing smoky air almost every day.

The air was smoky 25 out of 31 evenings in July 2009. We had 37 hours of continuous wood smoke in the air Aug. 29th – 31st. There was wood smoke in the air 19 consecutive evenings from Aug. 21st to Sept. 8th. It rained heavily on Aug. 20th, providing the only relief we got from wood smoke for almost three weeks.

Is this a good way to live? No. It is a horrible way to live. Take it from someone who knows. Breathing smoky, polluted air every day is misery.

Every day in this city several people are having recreational fires. Every evening the air is filled with the stench of burning wood. I am one person sick and tired of breathing smoky air every day. Is it too much to ask to be able to breathe fresh air in your own home?

Who is responsible for this wood smoke nightmare? The four city council members are responsible. Council members Jan Walczak, Bob Bruton, Terry Furlong, and Dave Zick support wood smoke. They don’t care if you have a child with asthma. They don’t care if you have to live like a shut-in because the air is so polluted. They don’t care if your sinuses burn because the wood smoke is so heavy.

Our four Council members have defended the rights of a small percentage of households to burn wood daily over the rights of all the rest of us to breathe.

You have no right to breathe under Walczak, Bruton, Furlong, and Zick. Burners have the right to burn wood 49 hours a week recreationally. The rest of us have no rights at all.

If you are considering purchasing real estate in the city of North Saint Paul, Minnesota (55109), factor this blog carefully into your decision. Buying a home in this city means that your kids will breathe smoky air while playing in the yard almost every day. Your baby will breathe smoky air in her crib should you leave the windows open around your house. If you leave your windows open you will wake up in the middle of the night choking on smoky air.

Perhaps worst of all, your utility rates will be high because you will have to run the air conditioner instead of leaving the windows open on a cool summer evening. You have no other choice because almost every night the air is too smoky to breathe in this city. Consider this blog your warning.

North St. Paul, Minnesota, is a wonderful community other than the wood smoke. If we could restore fresh air like we used to enjoy, life would be happy again.

Tell others about this blog!

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