Regulating "Open Burning"
New Hampshire’s open source air pollution regulations (Env-A 1000 linked under "Rules/Regulatory") define the administrative requirements for municipal and commercial open burning operations and clearly identify permissible types of open burning. The regulations also include provisions to control and minimize air pollution from open burning that occurs in conjunction with firefighter instruction and training, and to implement the 2002 state law prohibiting the backyard burning of household trash. Here are the highlights of the regulations.
General Open Burning
- Written authorization from DES is not required for open burning by any city or town of brush, including attached leaves, that is five inches in diameter or less. Until December 31, 2010, towns are allowed to burn unpainted and untreated wood from construction and demolition projects in their burn piles without authorization from DES. After that date, municipal burning of this material will no longer be allowed under any circumstances.
- Landowners may also burn brush, including attached leaves, that is five inches in diameter or less, provided the brush originates on-site.
- Single-family residential homeowners are allowed to burn clean untreated wood from on-site construction and demolition projects.
- Fire permits from a local Forest Fire Warden, the State Forest Ranger, and local authorities are required (if applicable) for permissible opening burning activities.
- The following are strictly prohibited statewide:
- Residential open burning of household trash
- Burning of tires and tubes.
- Burning for salvaging or reclaiming operations (i.e., any activity in which used material is processed for reuse).
- Burning of any components of construction and demolition debris (except as noted above).
Residential Open Burning of Household Trash is Prohibited
"Open burning" of household waste materials such as paper, plastics, household trash and garbage in a burn barrel or backyard incinerator results in many harmful health and environmental effects. According to an EPA study, burning a week’s worth of trash from a single home in an open barrel puts as much of some toxic chemicals (such as dioxin and furans) in the air as a well-controlled municipal incinerator burning trash from thousands of homes!
Recognizing the environmental and public health effects of residential trash burning, the NH Legislature passed a law in 2001 (RSA 125-N) that prohibits the "residential burning of combustible domestic waste." This ban on "backyard trash burning" took effect January 1, 2003. The ban includes materials such as household trash, packaging materials, coated or laminated papers, rubber, painted or treated wood, coated or treated cardboard, oily rags and animal, vegetable, and kitchen waste. Penalties for illegal burning of trash may include a warning, with an explanation of the ban; fines of up to $100 for the first offense; and fines of up to $250 for subsequent offenses.
The law gives DES primary responsibility for enforcing the ban, and requires DES, in cooperation with the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), to educate and notify the public regarding the ban. DES works closely with DRED and forest fire wardens on implementing the law.
The ban does not include the outdoor burning of leaves and small brush, campfire wood, and charcoal. These materials can be burned in a burn pile, but not a barrel, with a fire permit from the local fire warden. Penalties for burning without a fire permit include fines of up to $2,000 or one year imprisonment, or both. DRED has enforcement authority under RSA 227-L.
Firefighter Instruction and Training Burns
- A state certified fire instructor or specialty instructor must directly supervise all firefighter instruction and training activities.
- Form ARD-1003 must be submitted to DES by the fire service organization (e.g., a fire department) at least 10 days prior to the training burn, including, but not limited to, the following information:
- Detailed description of the training activities (date, time, location, etc.)
- A statement that all asbestos containing materials have been removed from structures to be burned and that an asbestos notification form has been submitted to DES at least 10 days prior to the scheduled burn date.
- A statement specifying that potentially harmful materials have been removed and properly disposed of.
Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces
Non-permitted sources of air pollution include wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Smoke from these devices can contain over 100 different chemical compounds, many of which are harmful and potentially carcinogenic. Wood smoke pollutants include fine particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, dioxins, and furans. The particulates can be composed of harmful substances, such as sulfate, which is acidic, and toxic trace metals like lead and cadmium. The very small particles that make up smoke and soot may be the most insidious component of wood smoke pollution. Ten microns or less in diameter (a human hair is approximately 70 microns in diameter), these particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, collect in tiny air sacs where oxygen enters the blood (called alveoli), and cause breathing difficulties and sometimes permanent lung damage. Pollution from wood stoves is a particular concern in the winter, when cold stagnant air and temperature inversions limit air movement. Communities located in valleys are more strongly affected. As wood burning increases on cold, clear, calm nights, smoke is unable to rise and disperse. Pollutants are trapped and concentrated near the ground, and the small size of the particles allows them to seep into houses through closed doors and windows.
People can reduce the amount of smoke from their wood stoves by choosing low-emission certified stoves, operating them properly, and using good quality firewood. This improves combustion efficiency, reduces emissions, helps protect public health and the environment, and saves fuel costs.
Outdoor Wood Boilers
Outdoor wood boilers, also referred to as OWBs, outdoor wood furnaces or outdoor wood-fired hydronic heaters, are free-standing wood burning devices that heat water, which is then pumped to one or more structures to provide heat. They resemble a small shed or mini-barn with a short smokestack on top. OWBs may be used to heat homes and buildings, produce domestic hot water, heat swimming pools or hot tubs, and provide heat to agricultural operations such as greenhouses and dairies. Many OWBs are used in rural, cold climates like New Hampshire where wood is readily available.
Unfortunately, these devices are often more polluting and less efficient than other home heating devices. Unlike other residential wood burning devices like indoor wood stoves or pellet stoves, OWBs are not required to meet federal emission standards, and as of 2008, are not EPA-certified. With smoldering fires and short smokestacks (usually less than 12 feet tall), OWBs often release heavy smoke close to the ground, where it creates a nuisance and is unhealthy to breathe. Smoke from OWBs contains emissions of fine particle pollution, carbon monoxide, and other organic products formed from incomplete combustion, such as formaldehyde, benzene and aromatic hydrocarbons.
In the absence of federal regulation, some local, state and regional organizations are establishing emissions standards and prohibiting the sale or installation of any OWB that does not meet the standards. At the federal level, in 2007 EPA initiated a voluntary partnership with manufacturers to produce and sell cleaner, more efficient OWBs that meet a certain performance level. Initially, ten manufacturers had signed an agreement with EPA to make cleaner models available to consumers – ones that are about 70 percent less polluting than existing models.
In New Hampshire, legislation passed in 2008 (effective August 10, 2008) regulates OWBs by establishing certain requirements on the sale, installation, and use of these devices, including but not limited to:
- Sale requirements:
- Effective January 1, 2009, all units that are sold in the state must meet the EPA Phase I emission limit of .6 pounds of particulate matter per million BTUs of heat input (i.e. wood burned)
- Effective April 1, 2010, all units that are sold in the state must meet the Phase II emission limit of 0.32 pounds of particulate matter per million BTUs of heat output.
- Setback requirements:
- Phase I units:
- Must be installed at least 100 feet from nearest property line.
- Must have a stack height at least 2 feet higher than peak of the roof of residence or business located within 300 feet of OWB unit.
- Phase II units:
- Must be installed at least 50 feet from nearest property line.
- Non Phase I or Phase II units:
- Must be installed at least 200 feet from nearest abutting residence.
- Must have a stack height 2 feet higher than peak of the roof of residence or business located within 300 feet of OWB unit.
- Phase I units:
- Both municipalities and the NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have the authority to require the removal of any device (existing or new) if it is deemed a nuisance or a threat to public health.
- The Seller of an OWB is required to provide written notice to a perspective buyer that includes information on the requirements for sale and use of OWBs in New Hampshire.
Fugitive dust contributes to particulate matter pollution that is primarily 10 microns (PM10) and smaller in diameter. PM10 also includes fine particles (PM2.5) that can bypass the body’s natural defenses and lodge deep in the lungs. Exposure to particulates can aggravate conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Fugitive dust is defined in Env-A 101 as particulate matter that is uncontaminated by pollutants, resulting from industrial activity including, but not limited to, emissions from haul roads, wind erosion of exposed surfaces and storage piles, and other removal, storage, transportation, or redistribution activities. These activities are usually not required to have an air permit from DES, but persons engaged in mining, construction, demolition, road or commercial building maintenance, bulk storage, and hauling activities are required to control fugitive dust in accordance with Env-A 1002. Control methods can include wetting, covering, shielding, or vacuuming.
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