Salt Lake County approves wood-burning ban to start in 2016

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SALT LAKE CITY -- On Thursday, the Salt Lake County Board of Health passed a new regulation that bans wood burning on bad air days. The step to improve Utah's air quality during inversion season is getting mixed reactions.

What is typically a beautiful view across the Salt Lake Valley to the Oquirrh Mountains is anything but nice during an inversion. That pollution that gets trapped is what the Salt Lake County Health Department and Mayor want to alleviate, and one step is passing a health regulation banning wood burning.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said: "We think it's modest. It's not an outright ban, but it's just on those days where we have red and yellow action alerts."

The regulation bans burning wood, coal or pellets in fireplaces or stoves, along with outdoor fires like bonfires, patio pit and charcoal grill fires--unless the fire is the only source of heat.

McAdams said, "This will have a meaningful impact on our air quality, that the actions of a few people are harming thousands."

Salt Lake resident Carole Johnson suffers from the pollution on those bad air days and said she's in favor of the ban.

"We have like a week at a time where we have inversion, and if we don't burn that week and we can all benefit from it, I think it's beneficial for all of us," she said.

But a government mandate is what has West Jordan resident Shonna Alva upset.

"There should never be a regulation or an ordinance or anything of that nature that limits your ability to feed yourself, heat yourself, things of that nature," Alva said.

Alva thinks this ban is a misuse of power from county officials and she said if they are going to truly solve Utah's air pollution problem, they need to also better regulate other industries.

"If they were going to restrict everything, they said, 'This is too much pollution,' and they have facts to stand behind it, I would be more likely to support it," she said.

The wood burning ban doesn't apply to households that rely on wood fireplaces or stoves as their sole source for heat or in an emergency situations, such as a power outage when it's cold.

Health officials will focus on educating residents this year. Fines will be issued starting January of 2016. Fines will be as high as $299 per day for repeat offenders.

Residents can file reports with the Salt Lake County Health Dept. here.

No burn regulation

62 comments

  • katamb-Midvale

    This is going to mean poor people living in a cold residence. Just because a place has gas heat, doesn’t mean people can afford it, especially with rents over $900 a month. If the legislature wants to do something useful, put a cap on how much rents can be raised to keep up with Utah salaries.

  • Video7

    Where is the breakdown of sources of pollution in the valley? The Health Department is going after the bottom 5% of pollution without a study of what the constituent polluters are. I suspect that with a refinery among other manufacturing and mining operations and increased automobile speeds that there are ways to make greater gain on reducing pollution besides wood burning ban – Even using non-EPA certified stoves it’s only 5% of the total pollution. What will they blame the pollution on next when they don’t have wood burning boogy man to blame? If that wasn’t enough, they want you to be an informant for the state against your neighbor.

    • Matthew

      It is more than 5%. If it is like other cities it is over 50% in the winter months. Sydney, Australia has 5% of homes using wood and over a million and a half cars. There woodburning is 56% responsible for all particulate pollution. Those of you not supporting a full ban haven’t learnt about it enough.

    • CaresAboutHealth

      Here’s the breakdown: sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56427415-78/utah-pollution-winter-wood.html.csp
      “smoky emissions (stoves and grills) are 38 percent and engine (cars, trucks and other gasoline or diesel engines, e.g. mining equipment) pollution is about 37 percent.”
      When you have millions of cars and trucks but only a few hundred wood-burning households, it’s a lot more sensible to go after the few hundred wood stoves that are causing nearly half the problem!

  • Nick R

    Its been a week now of red burning and look outside, Its really bad air. This is not gonna make a difference. It isn’t today. Just do red air days like we have now.

  • christine

    I think this is rediclous. We live in america. Everyday one of our freedoms are being taken away. There are so many industries that should be focused on but it’s easier for the government to try and control the little people.

  • Mark McMillan Sr.

    I attended this meeting. The public comment period was over so none of us was able to say anything. (Knew that going in) Not to bore anyone but the Health regulation #35 (Solid Fuel Burning) was the # 7 item on the agenda. The agenda reads: “Royal DeLegge, Environmental Health Director, will review the results of the public comment period and public hearing held on December 11, 2014. The board will approve the written findings based on the evidence presented and adopt the proposed regulation”. THERE WAS ZERO MENTION OF THE PUBLIC HEARING ON DEC.11TH WHICH WAS WELL ATTENDED. CITIZEN/RESIDENT INPUT MEANS NOTHING.COMMENT PERIODS ARE THEATER. PUBLIC HEARINGS ARE A WASTE OF THE PUBLICS TIME AND MUST JUST ME SOMETHING THEY HAVE TO DO BY LAW. Disgusting display of arrogance. No wonder most people don’t get involved with local issues. The county Health Department doesn’t even have the respect to follow their own written meeting agenda.

  • ObiRich

    So is the Board of Health an elected body? Or are political appointees issuing “executive orders” instead of going through an elected body (County commissioners/council members)?

  • trevor

    The American Lung Association is against wood burning. So is the EPA.

    Natural gas produces carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, negligible amounts of sulfur dioxide and mercury compounds. It also will release methane if it isn’t burned completely.

    Wood burning releases 1;3-Butadiene, Acetaldehyde, Ammonia (NH3), Benzene, Carbon monoxide (CO), Formaldehyde, Isomers of xylene, Lead & compounds, Oxides of nitrogen (NOx), Particulate matter ≤ 10 µm (PM10), Particulate matter ≤ 2.5 µm (PM2.5), Polychlorinated dioxins & furans (PCDD & PCDF), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), Toluene, Volatile organic compounds (VOC).

    Take your pick.

    • lycos72

      It also takes electricity generated by COAL burning plants in Utah to run those great clean burning furnaces you are citing. Why don’t you factor that into your numbers. source: http://vault.sierraclub.org/coal/map/
      Mercury per Year: 842 lbs.
      Other Pollution, per Year:
      Carbon Dioxide: 13,557,683 tons
      Sulfur Dioxide: 5,514 tons
      Nitrogen Oxides: 24,815 tons
      Hydrochloric Acid: 120,000 lbs.
      Sulfuric Acid: 19,000 lbs.

    • Matthew

      No it doesn’t. It says heat your home in a way that doesn’t poison the air. Which is completely fair.

    • CaresAboutHealth

      “Households where wood-burning stoves or fireplaces are the only sources of heat will be exempt.”
      Don’t make thing up, JBP.

  • Mikee

    Great, since cars produce the most pollution that gets trapped by inversions, can we expect to see a ban on vehicles during them? No? Didn’t think so. Much easier to pick on the few people that can only afford wood burning stoves than to pick on everyone that drives.

    If Utah has a problem, expect them to do the absolute bare minimum to address it.

    • Matthew

      Please get your facts straight. All those vehicles emit less particulate pollution than the wood burners in the winter months. Autos may be dirty but they are magnitudes cleaner than burning wood. Do some research.

  • carlyle

    Wow, some of you seem really selfish. What about the people with severe allergies, asthma, and other conditions? Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Get some space heaters please, just for the red days.

    • For the love of sanity

      As soon as you stop driving YOUR car and using your COAL powered electric appliances (utah electricity IS from coal!) then you can talk about being selfish. That high horse of yours is probably low emissions though, right?

      • CaresAboutHealth

        The issue is the disproportionate amount of pollution from a few hundred wood stoves. In fact, tests show that the average wood stove emits more particle pollution per year than 1,000 passenger cars.(1) Which would cause more hardship – stopping 1,000 people from driving to work so they can’t earn their living, or asking 1 person to switch to non polluting heating (and even providing a financial help to do so)?
        (1) woodsmoke dot 3sc dot net/cleancarbenefits

  • Matthew

    Yay. Woohoo! Woodsmoke is toxic and also highly annoying. Hopefully other places follow Salt Lake City’s lead.

  • brian moench

    Seventeen reasons to ban wood burning (and no this does not apply to people who can’t afford any other source of heat), so people on this thread who insist on repeating that are deliberating distorting what the ordinance says.
    1.  All air pollution is not created equal.  Wood smoke is the most toxic type of  pollution in most cities (including on the Wasatch Front),  more dangerous than auto pollution and most industrial pollution.  Lighting a wood fire in your house is like starting up your own mini-Stericycle.

    2.  Lifetime cancer risk is 12 times greater for wood smoke compared to an equal volume of second hand cigarette smoke.

    3.  Burning 10 lbs. of wood for one hour, releases as much PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) as 6,000 packs of cigarettes.  

    4.  Toxic free-radical chemicals in wood smoke are biologically active 40 times longer than the free radicals in cigarette smoke.

    5.  Wood smoke is the third largest source of dioxins, one of the most intensely toxic compounds known to science.

    6.  The very small size of wood particles make them seven times more likely to be inhaled than other particulate pollution.

    7.  Wood smoke easily penetrates homes of neighbors creating concentrations up to 88% as high as outdoor air.  

    8.  If you smell wood smoke, you know you are being harmed.  The sweet smell comes from deadly compounds like benzene. 

    9.  The most dangerous components of air pollution are much higher inside homes that burn wood than non-burners, as much as 500% higher.

    10.  Considering the most dangerous part of particulate pollution, wood burning produces as much overall as all our cars during the winter.

    11.  The inhalable particulate pollution from one woodstove is equivalent to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat.

    12.  Emissions from modern combustion appliances for wood logs may increase ten-fold if they are not operated appropriately, and most of them are not.

    13.  Wood smoke is the only pollution emitted right where people spend most of their time.  It disperses poorly, is not evenly distributed and stays in the air longer because of its small size.  Concentrations can be 100 times higher for neighbors of wood burners than what is captured at the nearest monitoring station. Real local “pollution victims” are created even when overall community levels are low.

    14.  If your neighbor is a regular wood burner, and follows all the rules, i.e. doesn’t burn during yellow or red alert days, but does during all “green” days, you can go an entire winter without having one single day of clean air.

    15. According to California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District, burning wood costs the rest of the community, primarily your next door neighbors, at least $2 in extra medical expenses for every lb of wood that you burn. An average fire then costs your neighbors about $40.

    16.  Long ago most communities passed ordinances protecting people from second hand cigarette smoke.  Ironically those laws protect people at places they don’t necessarily have to be (restaurants, stores, buildings, etc).  But in the one place they have to be, their home, they have no protection from something even worse—wood smoke.  People should have just as much protection from wood smoke as from cigarette smoke and for all the same reasons. We don’t allow people to blow cigarette smoke in your face, why should we allow people to blow wood smoke into your home?

    17. Wood burning is not even close to carbon neutral over the short term, the next few decades, and it is that time frame that will make or break the climate crisis. Burning wood is extremely in inefficient. Per unit of heat created wood produces even more CO2 than the fossil fuels do. Furthermore, the black carbon particulate matter released enhances the absorption of radiant heat in the atmosphere, making global warming worse, and prematurely melts already imperiled mountain snow pack.

      • Matthew

        Bob, It’s called reality. Getting a grip on said reality is a bit of a life skill.

        P.S. They’re also known as facts.

      • bobert

        Bob, not everyone that disagrees with you is a “liberal”… get a new insult. Besides, your stupidity gives conservatives a bad name… Enjoy living in the 1800s, the rest of American has learned to update…

  • bobert

    I like how everyone is all or nothing on this issue. Just because cars pollute, people should be able to burn wood and add to the pollution? Get with the times and update to a gas or electric heater. Wood burning ads way more pollutant than modern heaters and modern cars…

    • CaseY

      Objection Robert, there are no facts to back up the level of pollution by way of wood burning,,, it would also be naive and arrogant to think the whole “get with the times” is true, due to the problem that would suggest the earth changes with the times? Really? Go back to school my friend, and I don’t mean public school…

      • bobert

        Casey, learn some grammar, then try to argue with the big boys. Also, no evidence wood burning makes pollutants? Do you not see the smoke that raises from fires? The soot on the inside of a chimney? Not to mention all of the toxic by-products from wood off-gassing.

    • CaseY

      How many know that the city council lacks power to only offer a public comment period!!!! You are allowed to demand answers as well as demand the mayor and council provide you with the “laws” that grant them the privilege,,, they never can,,,, in fact they commit a felony by refusing.

  • my name

    Time to leave Utah! Been a country boy my whole life, won’t give up my ways for some government. Self reliance is something more people should desire.

  • CaseY

    Objection!!!! There is zero evidence or fact to suggest that burning wood has any effect upon the air quality, for all they know burning wood makes the air better instead of worse!!!!…. Besides,,,,, notice it’s an ordinance and also says residence!!!! Well residents are only temporary commercial entities,,,, most everyone here is “domiciled” and therefore an ordinance may not apply to you. Remember, public officials hold an official capacity by which is a privilege!!!! Not a right given by way of election, just like children who abuse their privilege, “the people” not to be confused with “we the people” have the inherent right, ( not to be confused with a civil right, to decree these pathetic officials null and void within their official capacity, we never gave you the privilege to create such ordinances.

    • Matthew

      I think that it is quite possible that this comment is the dumbest thing ever said on the internet: “There is zero evidence or fact to suggest that burning wood has any effect upon the air quality, for all they know burning wood makes the air better instead of worse!!!!”
      I think Casey you should get some kind of award for that one. How about a chemistry Nobel Prize just for irony’s sake?

  • CaseY

    Objection!!!! There is zero evidence or fact to suggest that burning wood has any effect upon the air quality, for all they know burning wood makes the air better instead of worse!!!!…. Besides,,,,, notice it’s an ordinance and also says residence!!!! Well residents are only temporary commercial entities,,,, most everyone here is “domiciled” and therefore an ordinance may not apply to you. Remember, public officials hold an official capacity by which is a privilege!!!! Not a right given by way of election, just like children who abuse their privilege, “the people” not to be confused with “we the people” have the inherent right, ( not to be confused with a civil right, to decree these pathetic officials null and void within their official capacity, we never gave you the privilege to create such ordinances.

    • bobert

      What kind of punctuation is, “,,,,”? Did you drop of of school or something? It is hard to take someone seriously when they cannot even type correctly…

  • bobert

    My house has a 95% efficient furnace, R-24 Walls, R-49 Ceilings, and high efficiency windows, this does not bother me. How many people are using wood to heat their house that have the insulating power of a paper bag? This is not the 1800s anymore, get with the times… The way a lot of you are talking, I am shocked you are not living in a cave…

    • CaresAboutHealth

      People in less polluted cities live longer. If the few hundred people who use wood stove convert to non-polluting heating, the lives of all those living in the city will be extended by thousands of years.
      Many would live an extra year or two, some even ten, others only a few months. Cleaning up wood stoves should extend the lives of the 190,000 residents by at least 50,000 years.
      It’s not about banning living, but allowing people to live healthier lives – fewer cot deaths and sick children with behavioral problems, less heart attacks and strokes, respiratory diseases and Alzheimers.

  • Milan

    For all you pro natural gas and propane furnace people who’d like to see wood burning banned. It also takes electricity generated by COAL burning plants in Utah to run those great clean burning furnaces. Big business is ok to pollute our air so let’s go after the MINORITY of polluters in the state because, they don’t have the money or the big lawyers to fight back. BTW these are just the numbers for the power plant in by Delta. source: http://vault.sierraclub.org/coal/map/
    Mercury per Year: 842 lbs.
    Other Pollution, per Year:
    Carbon Dioxide: 13,557,683 tons
    Sulfur Dioxide: 5,514 tons
    Nitrogen Oxides: 24,815 tons
    Hydrochloric Acid: 120,000 lbs.
    Sulfuric Acid: 19,000 lbs.

    • CaresAboutHealth

      Inversions are a health hazard because they trap particle pollution, not CO2. In terms of health damage, wood stoves are worse than the power plants. Here’s the breakdown: sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56427415-78/utah-pollution-winter-wood.html.csp “smoky emissions (stoves and grills) are 38 percent and engine (cars, trucks and other gasoline or diesel engines, e.g. mining equipment) pollution is about 37 percent.”
      So, despite what Milan said, they *are* going after the big polluters. Cleaning up a few hundred wood stoves will clean up the air far more than shutting down the power plants that serve millions.
      There’s no doubt that clean air makes a vast difference to our health. But when you can achieve greater benefits from cleaning up a few wood stoves, does anyone here really think it would make sense to shut down the power plants and deprive millions of electricity instead?

      • lycos72

        Just cite the data and all the numbers when you claim furnaces are so clean burning and are the great alternative. Could you please cite some numbers that are independent of the DAQ board member that made them up to match his findings and to back their own plan to ban wood burning ? As far as the power companies are concerned I think we should REQUIRE all businesses to conform, shut down and or convert to natural gas. Incinerators, refineries, coal burning plants and the like have no business being in a place where inversions occur. This includes if your going to ban wood stoves then that means pizza parlors, burger joints or anyone that uses wood stoves or bbq should have to comply as well, they should get no exemption because they are a business. It’s time to stop treating businesses like they have more rights than the people who live in the state, businesses are not people and should have less rights to operate. I could care less about their profits or the amount of jobs they create. FYI the power companies have 15 or so more years of polluting before they are REQUIRED to do any conversions to natural gas, happy polluting and profits are up.

      • CaresAboutHealth

        The study was led by a researcher from the University of Utah Dept of Chemical Engineering – K. E. Kelly. Particles were sampled particles on high pollution days (>20 ug/m3) and examined their chemical fingerprint to see where they came from. 38% came from burning wood, 26% from gasoline engines (cars etc) and 9% from diesel (trucks & other vehicles, e.g. earth-moving equipment used by the mining industry).

        But you come to a similar conclusion by comparing emissions from the average wood stove – real-life emissions about 10 grams for every kg of wood burned (though poorly operated stoves and non-EPA certified ones are quite often much worse). Most stoves would produce at least 20 kilograms of particle pollution per year, and often 40 or 50 kg – compare that with the 20 grams of PM2.5 that the average gasoline-powered car is expected to produce in a year.

        So the wood stove is 1,000 to 2,000 more polluting than the gasoline car. No point in discussing gas furnaces, or even coal, because they weren’t identified as major sources of pollution in the Utah University study.

      • lycos72

        Correct the study was conducted by “Kerry Kelly, a U. chemical engineer and member of the Utah Air Quality Board, led the study that basically took apart the chemical recipe for winter smog to learn more about its ingredients and how much of each is in the soupy air.” A MEMBER OF THE UTAH AIR QUALITY BOARD.

  • Mark McMillan Sr.

    “Dr.” Meonch and bobblehead followers. Please read “The Death of Common Sense” by Philip K. Howard. It describes you and your followers to a tee. Very Informative. (He’s also a doctor but not an anesthesiologist like you). As soon as the inversion season is over, the Utah Physicians for a Healthy waste land will be back suing and harassing the oil & gas industry in Eastern Utah where we get our fossil fuels from since we can’t use wood for heat.
    MYTH: Wood heat is bad for the environment.
    FACT: Biomass fuels, such as wood, are “carbon neutral,” which means they do not generate a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, as do fossil fuel generated electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, and coal. Heating with renewable resources, such as wood, lessens our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. In fact, heating an average home with wood can save enough nonrenewable fossil fuel to operate an automobile for a full year. For a very informative interacting web site, copy this to your browser and enjoy.
    http://www.outdoorfurnacefacts.com/wood-corn-heating-facts/myths-vs-facts/#005

    • Matthew

      You are almost right. You are wrong by about 100% and 180 degrees wrong. You should read Sam Harry’s essay The Fireplace Delusion. Wood smoke is a nasty set of toxic, carcinogenic, cardiotoxic chemicals that does cause death and disease. And burning wood is not carbon neutral. Those in denial such as yourself really should learn a little before opening their mouths and proving to the world their ignorance.

    • CaresAboutHealth

      Common sense tells me that if I want to know the facts about snake oil, there’s no point in consulting a snake oil salesman who makes money by selling snake oil. Are you seriously suggesting that an outdoor wood furnace (OWF) maker is likely to provide impartial information?
      The UN Environment program (UNEP) is an impartial organization that disagrees with your “facts” and recommends phasing out OWF and log-burning wood stoves in developed countries to reduce global warming as well as improve health.
      Consulting the cigarette makers about the health effects of tobacco smoke, or the wood stove and OWF makers about the health and environmental effects of wood smoke, would seem to be an apt example of the death of common sense!

  • Mark McMillan

    Matthew. I took your advise and tried to google “Sam Harry” so I could be enlightened. Nothing came up so I’m not sure where your getting your reading material. Communist manifesto perhaps?

  • Kathy Robbins

    I grew up in Utah county and now live in Sanpete county where my husband and I heat almost exclusively with wood. This is such BS! I would never allow someone to intrude on my rights as a free citizen as to the way I would heat my home on cold winter nights!! The Federal and the State governments need to get out of my life and quit legislating us to death. If I lived in SLC county, I would never comply with this. Fine away….I would not pay and you would not stop me from heating my home by any means necessary!!

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