By ERIC VOORHIS, For the Enterprise
ALBANY – New York State Department of Environmental Conser-vation Commissioner Peter Grannis announced Thursday the release of proposed state regulations to cut pollution from outdoor wood boilers (OWBs).
According to Grannis the proposal addresses what has become a public nuisance for many New Yorkers.
The DEC aims to reduce air quality impacts and deal with the issue of smoke plumes caused by wood boilers by enacting new emission limits on OWBs sold in New York, as well as setting a minimum distance that new boilers would need to be located from neighboring properties. In addition, the DEC is proposing fuel restrictions and stack height requirements for both new and existing outdoor wood boilers.
New proposed rules also ban the use of existing boilers in the summer and will eventually phase out existing units that do not comply with new standards.
"As we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day, we are taking yet another step in the pursuit of clean air for all New Yorkers," Grannis said. "This proposal will ensure that new outdoor wood boilers are cleaner and that existing boilers be used in the most environmentally sound way possible."
The units, typically installed 30 to 200 feet away from homes, look like sheds or outhouses with chimneys on top and circulate water into homes for heating or hot water systems.
DEC spokesperson Lori Severino said the proposal is largely a response to numerous public complaints, and along with nuisance issues, the DEC’s efforts seek to preserve New York air conditions.
"Some of these units can emit the same amount of air pollution as 1,000 oil furnaces," Severino said.
According to Severino, the proposal is based on a model set forth by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and has been in the works in New York state since 2007. Similar rules have already taken effect in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Outdoor wood boilers are already banned from operation between May 15 and August 31 in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. Towns and villages in the area have also introduced local restrictions, including Tupper Lake, which put a ban on OWBs in August 2008. Saranac Lake, and surrounding areas including Jay, Keene and Wilmington also have local laws restricting the use of OWBs, mostly targeting set back requirements and height of smoke stacks.
"The state’s involvement is almost too late," said Wilmington Town Supervisor Randy Preston. "We’ve had many issues in the town and put in local laws about a year ago."
Preston said OWBs became popular for some residents, but also business owners in Wilmington.
"On a still day in the winter, we would get a big cloud hanging over the town," Preston said. "It was very unpleasant, so we took action."
Lake Placid resident William Izzo, who owns and operates A Cut Above Tree Services and also deals outdoor wood boilers, said the issues that have come up are a result of misuse. He also said he became a dealer after purchasing a wood boiler unit and has been very satisfied with the product.
"You don’t ever hear about how successful these units are if they’re used properly," Izzo said. "It’s mostly common sense. If you burn a huge pile of wet leaves, you’re going to have some unhappy neighbors."
Izzo has been dealing OWBs for three years and said he sold roughly 100 units last year. He said many of the issues raised by the state and local governments including height of smoke stacks and the type of fuel being burned are common sense and that many of the proposed restrictions are very similar to the installation manuals for many outdoor wood burning units.
The DEC will hold a public hearing in the DEC central headquarters in Albany at 6 p.m. on June 8. A hearing will also be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23 at Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake. The public comment period will end at 5 p.m. on July 2, 2010.
"The DEC is continually working to improve air quality, so that all New Yorkers can breathe air that is clean and healthy," Commissioner Grannis said. "this proposal is another important step towards that goal."
Proposed state rules for wood-fired boilers are available online at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/64459html.