Using a wood-burning stove or fireplace when the air is polluted this winter could be costly.
On Nov. 1, a ban on the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces during periods of high pollution and temperature inversion takes effect in Salt Lake County, most of Utah County and areas of Davis County. Residents who are caught violating the no-burn period will be fined $50 to $150.The mandatory no-burn program is part of the Division of Air Quality's plan to reduce fine particulate, or PM-10, pollution. The ban also will help reduce carbon monoxide pollution during the winter.
The division estimates that in Utah County 16 percent of the PM-10 pollution is caused by wood burning. In Salt Lake County, wood burning causes 14 percent of the PM-10 pollution.
"The wood-burning stove issue is important for a couple of reasons," said Sam Rushforth, a Brigham Young University professor and co-founder of the Utah County Clean Air Coalition. "Not only do the stoves contribute significant amounts of pollution, but the pollution they contribute is toxic. Wood smoke contains at least a dozen carcinogenic compounds."
Emissions from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are a particular concern because during inversions the smoke is concentrated near ground level in residential areas, Rushforth said.
Residents who use a fireplace or wood stove as their sole source of heat and are registered with the division or with a local health department are exempt from the ban. So are residents who use EPA-approved quality stoves that emit no smoke after the initial 15 minutes of burning.
Everyone else will be expected to lay off wood burning when the air is bad. The division will let residents know when to avoid using their fireplaces and stoves through a color-coded system shown on television news broadcasts as part of the weather report.
- A green signal will mean the clearing index is high and pollution levels are low. Wood burning is allowed.
- A yellow signal will mean high pollution levels and a temperature inversion are developing. Residents should reduce all wood or coal burning. If possible, residents should not use their stoves and fireplaces.
- A red signal will indicate that PM-10 levels have reached 120 parts per million and high pollution levels are expected to persist. Residents should stop all residential and commercial burning, unless they qualify for an exemption, for at least 24 hours.
The division plans to play tough with the no-burn program. Division inspectors will travel the counties looking for violators. Officials are still debating but probably will not issue warnings. They'll reach straight for the fine book and sock violators for up to $150.
A mandatory no-burn program that prohibits general use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves during periods of high pollution begins Nov. 1.
The no-burn program applies to all of Salt Lake Count, Utah County north of the southernmost border of Payson City and east of U-68, and Davis County south of the southermost border of Kaysville.