Permanent Outdoor Burn Ban Coming Soon
by Craig Weckesser
Almost all of us take for granted the natural surroundings of the beautiful area we call home. Most of us believe that there's plenty of fresh, clean air to breathe.
In 1991, the state legislature amended the Clean Air Washington Act, the law that addresses many of the state's air pollution issues. One of those issues is outdoor burning, which accounts for approximately 10 percent of the state's pollution.
Smoke from outdoor burning is harmful to human health and the environment. Pollution generated from outdoor burning poses a serious threat to residents throughout the six-county area served by the regional air quality management district, Olympic Air Pollution Control Authority (OAPCA). Two of those counties are Thurston and Mason.
The Clean Air Act began phasing out residential and land clearing burning statewide in 1991. The rule established a number of conditions, including a ban on open burning by the year 2001 in "urban growth" areas and cities with a population of 10,000 or more.
Residential outdoor burning was banned within the city limits of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater nearly a decade ago because the area exceeded federal health-based air pollution standards for particulate matter.
By December 31, 2000, the residential burning phase-out will extend to the Thurston County-defined urban growth area (UGA). Land clearing burning will also be terminated under the law in a few areas contiguous to the UGA where population density is 1,000 people per a square mile (as defined by census block groups).
In Mason County, the bans on residential and land clearing burning will impact Shelton and its UGA.
In Thurston and Mason counties, fire marshals as well as officials of fire departments and fire districts are working with OAPCA to educate citizens about the bans.
Composting, chipping, and recycling are viable alternatives to outdoor burning that create a resource instead of air pollution and a solid waste problem. Information about alternatives to outdoor burning are available from local solid waste departments.
The state law stipulates that residential and land clearing burning will be banned in the smaller Thurston County cities of Bucoda, Rainier, Tenino, and Yelm after December 31, 2006.
Other highlights of the amended state law (WAC 173-425), which became effective April 13, include:
OAPCA encourages citizens to call the agency (360-438-8768), your local fire department/fire district, or the Department of Natural Resources if you have questions about the outdoor burning ban or related outdoor burning issues. You can also call OAPCA to request a copy of its brochure, "Outdoor Burning, Air Quality & Your Health" or access the agency website, www.oapca.org, for more outdoor burning and other air quality information. OAPCA's website also displays maps which show the areas where the permanent burn bans will occur in the agency's region.
Craig Weckesser is the Public Information Officer from the Olympic Air Pollution Control Authority.
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