2010 May 15: NY Kinderhook: RAWSEP View: Don’t burn wood, period: OWB moratorium for three more months: Outdoor wood boiler discussion continues

2010 May 15: NY Kinderhook: RAWSEP View: Don’t burn wood, period:  OWB moratorium for three more months: Outdoor wood boiler discussion continues

Kinderhook Village has outlawed OWBs after 2020
 
Under the state Property Maintenance Code, article 302.6, Piester said, a building faces the hurdle that “pipes, ducts, conductors, fans or blowers shall not discharge gases, steams, vapor, hot air, grease … upon abutting or adjacent public or private property or that of another tenant.”
 
The board voted to extend the town’s moratorium on OWBs for another three months while the law is being hammered out.

 
RAWSEP View: l.  This article does not discuss the health hazards of wood smoke. 
2.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and mine collapses in West Virginia and Siberia  do not justify creating more pollution in the form of Black Carbon.  Black carbon is the 2nd leading cause of global warming and stopping it is the quickest way to slow climate change.  Black carbon from among other things, wood burning, contributes to, to quote, "glaciers melting and the North Pole being turned into a lake."
3.  A fireman who isn’t concerned with the health effects of smoke inhalation is hopefully a unique individual.
4.  Since these Outdoor Wood Boilers are already violating a code, why is that code not being enforced immediately?
5.  "Smoke gets in your lungs" uses science to make its points about Outdoor Wood Boilers.  There are also much more recent scientific studies of the health hazards of wood burning.
6.  A neighbor who isn’t concerned about the health effects of his Outdoor Wood Boiler on his neighbor is hopefully a unique individual, as the health hazards are increasingly publicized.  People who complain about Outdoor Wood Boilers are not unique.  Complaints about Outdoor wood boilers have occurred across New York State and the U.S., logically resulting in Outdoor Wood Boiler bans and regulations in increasing numbers.
7.  Banning or regulating Outdoor Wood Boilers is not, quote,  "a communist thing" or quote, "prejudice".  If a CEO would come to someone’s house and say NO, the official would be enforcing an existing code PMC 302.6
8.  If a person spent $15,000 for a polluting device, does that person expect to be rescued from their bad decison?  A bailout?

 
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By John Mason
Published:

Saturday, May 15, 2010 2:12 AM EDT
Outdoor wood boilers need to be weighed against the alternatives before being regulated out of existence. That was the message delivered to the Kinderhook Town Board Monday by a local OWB owner.

Mike Urbaitis built, owns and maintains one of the two OWBs in Kinderhook Village. He constructed his boiler, which heats two houses and a greenhouse in the center of the village, as an alternative to fossil fuel. His plea couldn’t have been more timely, coming as the world tries to contain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But not everybody sees it his way: Kinderhook Village has outlawed OWBs after 2020, and at Monday’s meeting, Kinderhook Town Board members heard a presentation on OWB regulations, as they explore the town’s options.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is working on regulations that would phase out “existing wood boilers” by 2020 and is accepting comments through July 2. A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 8 at 625 Broadway in Albany, with a public information session at 5 p.m.

During the public comment period, Urbaitis urged the Town Board to regulate, rather than banish, the OWB.

A member of the Palmer Engine and Hose Company, he described two oil burner failures that occurred in the village last fall.

“One was a residence in which a woman remained in the house a full night and day before she moved an object and saw the distinct ring showing a deposit of unburned fuel,” he said. “I was doing work at the house, and I saw the film myself. She had to have every object in the house cleaned down to the stones in the cellar, at a cost of $15,000.”

Urbaitis said the second incident was in the village square, and when he responded as a fireman, “thick smoke was pressing against the windows and the square was blue with the haze of unburned fuel oil. This condition lasted a full half-hour. Everyone there got a good lung full of that smoke, and my head was banging for the rest of the night. So it’s true that no system is perfect, but my boiler can’t cause that sort of hazard.”

Unlike oil, he said, wood particles that fall to the ground do not pollute, but serve as fertilizer. Since wood is found on the surface of the earth, no mining, drilling or refining is needed, he said, and “the collection of firewood is a healthy and useful activity.”

Urbaitis was responding to “Smoke Gets in Your Lungs,” a 2005 publication of the state Attorney General’s Office which he said “beats down on OWBs from start to finish.” Urbaitis urged that it “not be outlawed, but rather taken seriously as a legitimate heat source.”

“My wood boiler is an excellent heat provider,” he said. “It runs clean with the use of clean wood fuel only and proper loading. I don’t burn too much wood — just enough. A tall stack also helps disperse the wood smoke as I live near other people and I wish not to be a nuisance.”

He said his direct neighbors “are OK with” his setup. His 30-foot high stack lifts the smoke above their houses.

“I should mention that I have one individual who always complains,” Urbaitis said. “He complained when I burned my wood stove and now he complains about the boiler, which is about 300 feet from his house. I myself have seen him puffing on substandard cigars in front of his spouse, so I guess I’d be a fool to take his smoke claims seriously.”

He urged board members to take into consideration the sulfur, mercury, benzene and other pollutants he and other OWB users are not emitting by not burning oil. While oil is “politically, ecologically and culturally destructive,” he said, “wood has a low impact. No wars need to be fought, no sham governments need to be propped up and no spills need to be mitigated.”

Urbaitis asked the town to “take a leadership position … by allowing wood boilers to operate,” and suggested that stack requirements and a burn season be put in place.

Monday’s meeting kicked off with a power point presentation by Ron Piester, director of the Division of Code Enforcement and Administration for the state Department of State. He addressed the state regulations regarding OWBs and how local regulations might interact with them.

Under the state Mechanical Code, he said, while there is little information about OWBs themselves, there’s a wealth of information about their installation. The unit must be listed and labeled, he said, specifically designed and installed properly, “not just patched together.”

Under the state Property Maintenance Code, article 302.6, Piester said, a building faces the hurdle that “pipes, ducts, conductors, fans or blowers shall not discharge gases, steams, vapor, hot air, grease … upon abutting or adjacent public or private property or that of another tenant.”

He said it was up to the code enforcement officer to make sure this condition is not violated, and said his office provides technical assistance in applying the code.

The town’s options, Piester said, are:

n  To develop criteria for application of the Property Maintenance Code, with guidelines for the CEO.

n  To adopt a local law under the authority of Executive Law Article 18, subject to review and approval by the New York State Code Council.

Over the long term, Piester said, the town could amend its codes. Most importantly, he said, the town should support its CEO’s education. Code enforcement officers are the “silent heroes,” he said, making sure buildings “are built safely, stand the test of time and are built so emergency personnel know what they are getting into.” CEOs, he said are required to take 24 hours a year of training.

Councilwoman Patsy Leader asked whether article 302.6 applied to restaurants or burning wood in a fireplace.

“I think you’re being prejudiced,” she said. The 14,000 people with wood boilers in New York state “is such a small percentage compared to other things the state should be looking for,” she said. “There’s a very small community in Kinderhook that has this. Someone paid $15,000 [to build on] — how are you going to tell them they have to get rid of it, then increase their taxes? The people I spoke to have never burned garbage: They burn clean wood. I feel it’s a prejudice.”

Piester expressed his surprise at her reaction to what he considered “relatively minimal regulations.”

“My feeling is, I don’t think they should be banned,” she said. “Who is the CEO to come into my house and say ‘No?’ It’s a communist thing.”

Piester said the state Code Council is not thinking of banning them, and that 302.6 was developed in a national context and applies to all types of exhaust from buildings.

Speaking in favor of Urbaitis were Mike Rexhouse and Dick Morell. Rexhouse said Urbaitis, whom he has worked for, cuts his own wood locally, clearing and maintaining areas in exchange for wood so he doesn’t need to transport his fuel thousands of miles.

He said there is a small amount of smoke when the wood is first put in, which is replaced by steam after a minute or two, and when the unit is up to temperature, with proper use, there’s no smoke at all. 

“We have an opportunity here,” he said. “I’m disgusted by this whole experience; our state officials are encouraging the dying fossil fuel industry.”

Morell said he had never experienced any obnoxious odor from Urbaitis’s boiler.

While mines collapse in West Virginia and Siberia, glaciers are melting and the North Pole is turning into a lake, he said, “our government is more interested in outdoor wood boilers than in the people creating the problem.”

The board voted to extend the town’s moratorium on OWBs for another three months while the law is being hammered out. Councilman Peter Bujanow said the code committee is considering how the DEC’s laws differ from the ones they are proposing.

“We don’t ban them,” he said. “We allow them in certain zones.” The committee is also considering requirements for setbacks and stack heights, and distinctions between residential and commercial units.

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