The Utah Division of Air Quality sent up a smoke signal about woodburning, and Utah County residents clearly got the message.
Ninety percent of residents surveyed by Dan Jones and Associates said they are aware of the mandatory ban on woodburning in Utah County on high pollution days."My feeling is air quality is definitely an issue that everybody is concerned with," said Terry Beebe, director of air quality programs for the City/County Health Department of Utah County. "Most people want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."
The Division of Air Quality began the mandatory no-burn program this winter as part of its plan to control fine particulate or PM10 pollution. Woodburning is the second largest source of PM10 in Utah County.
"We need to keep this in perspective," said Scott Bean, former chairman of the Woodburning Stove Subcommittee of the Utah County Clean Air Commission. "The level of PM10 contributions from wood stoves and fireplaces is about 14 percent. The vast majority comes from industrial sources in the valley."
The program uses a color-coded signal system to alert residents to air quality conditions. A green signal indicates residents may freely use their woodburning stoves and fireplaces. When the signal is yellow, residents are asked to voluntarily cease use of stoves and fireplaces.
When pollution levels trigger a red signal, residents must stop woodburning unless they qualify for an exemption. The division relies primarily on local media to inform residents of conditions. The Deseret News runs the air quality report daily.
The Division of Air Quality gives exemptions to residents who use a woodburning stove or fireplace as their sole source of heat. Residents may also use devices that create no emissions during red periods.
Most residents surveyed by Jones said they'll do their part to clear the air during high pollution periods. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they are somewhat or very likely to abide by the ban on woodburning on high pollution days.
"The only way the program is going to be successful is if you have voluntary compliance," Beebe said. "I'm pleased with the amount of cooperation."
But a handful of residents are almost militant about their right to burn. Ten percent said they are not very likely or not at all likely to close the damper on their stoves on high-pollution days.
"We realize there's a segment out there that feels no one has the right to tell them they can't burn their woodstoves," Beebe said.
Provo resident Bill Hickman is one of them. He said he doesn't know where or how to get information on burning conditions. When he's home, he fires up the wood-urning stove.
"If I get caught, I get caught," Hickman said. "I think it's a bunch of poppycock myself. I don't think we're polluting the air that much with our stoves."
Hickman may be able to breathe easier knowing his neighbors are unlikely to turn him in for violating a ban. Jones found residents plan to mind their own business as far as the ban goes: 48 percent said they were not at all likely to report neighbors who burn on red days. Only 8 percent said they'd fink on neighbors who burn.
"I think people don't like the idea of turning in their neighbors," Beebe said. "They're fearful of confrontations. They would rather get along."
The Division of Air Quality has a pool of 32 inspectors that it will send out during red periods in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties to look for violators. The division plans initially to deliver packets of information about the ban to violators.
If that fails to win them over, the division will contact residents by telephone and explain the program to them. If residents continue to violate bans, the division may fine them. Fines allowed by law range from $25 to $299.
"It depends on a person's attitude and approach," said Robert Dalley, manager of air monitoring and compliance for the Division of Air Quality. "We're going to try to be as lenient as possible. Ideally, we want people to assist us in this effort rather than force people into it."
Jones conducted the poll for the Deseret News Utah County Bureau Nov. 24-28, surveying 401 county residents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Deseret News poll
Are you aware of the mandatory ban on woodburning in Utah County on high pollution days?
*Yes, aware - 90 percent
*No, not aware - 8 percent
*Don't know/no response - 1 percent
If you have a woodburning stove, how likely will you be to abide by the ban on woodburning on high pollution days?
*Very likely - 71 percent
*Somewhat likely - 16 percent
*Not very likely - 2 percent
*Not at all likely - 8 percent
*Don't know - 3 percent
How likely would you be to report a neighbor who was not abiding by the law?
*Very likely - 8 percent
*Somewhat likely - 13 percent
*Not very likely - 18 percent
*Not at all likely - 48 percent
*Don't know - 12 percent