2011 Sept. 19: CT & NY: Request for help from the Federal Government (OWF)

2011 Sept. 19: CT & NY: Request for help from the Federal Government (OWF)

The letter below is from a family in New York written to their US Senator — and is yet another cry for help for protection from a neighbor’s outdoor wood furnace. Although this case is in New York, the story is the same for people suffering from neighbor’s outdoor wood furnaces whether they live in New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont or any other state where they allow outdoor wood furnaces to be installed. Each state has different set back requirements- but none are protective – as the wood smoke emissions from OWF’s go for 1/2 a mile and travel in a plume close to the ground entering all the homes that are in the plume’s wake.

Environment and Human Health, Inc. will continue to work on this issue until some agency, either state or federal, begins to enact laws that actually protect people’s health and property values. No one should be allowed to live in away that takes away another person’s health and property. If the laws are not written to protect those rights – then they need to be written.
Nancy Alderman, President
Environment and Human health, Inc.

From: John and Bonnie Lichak
2136 US 20
Nassau, NY 12123
To: Senator Kristen Gillibrand
Albany/Capital District Office
Leo W. O’Brien Building

11A Clinton Avenue, Room 821

Albany, NY 12207

Re: Harm from a neighbor’s outdoor wood furnace

September 18, 2011

Dear Senator Gillibrand:
On August 8, 2011 we sent your office the enclosed letter along with a DVD. We have not received any response to this letter and are therefore providing more details because we very upset about the health impacts on our daughter. She has been exposed to this smoke from 2004 thru 2011. Per Environment and Human Health Inc.’s report, The Dangers to Health from Outdoor Wood Furnaces50 – 70% of outdoor pollution levels are indoors. So despite our attempts to protect her health and our health we are in fact unable (http://www.ehhi.org/reports/woodsmoke). We have been to every known public agency and learned the laws of the land, which are poorly written and rarely enforced leaving us nowhere to turn but to you.

The video that we sent is of our yard filled with wood smoke. This has been going on since the Fall of 2004. In that time we have been in contact with our local Village and Town, our County Health Dept., NYS Dept of Health, NYS Dept of State, NYS Attorney General’s Office, the NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation and the EPA. Surprisingly all of these levels of government have some kind of laws but getting them enforced is near impossible. Because our health and life have been so impacted by this smoke we have done much research to try and get our clean air back for ourselves but especially for our daughter. We have not been successful and so are requesting your help.

BRIEF BACKGROUND OF WOOD BOILERS (see also enclosed timeline)

Most people including ourselves were not familiar with the source of this pollution. It is a wood boiler. A wood boiler is NOT like a wood stove. Wood boilers are not regulated by the EPA. We have enclosed a timeline which provides some further detail on this.

The basic story is that when the EPA made rules for wood stoves back in the early 1990s there was a loophole in their definition that excludes many appliances including wood boilers. According to data we have EPA now has at least 260 exemptions. NYS and many other States started to notice and have complaints on wood boilers as far back as 2003. At that time NYS DEC sent a letter to manufacturers that wood boilers did not meet NYS laws. This letter however did not stop the sales of wood boilers in NY nor did DEC inform the public (we have that letter if you want a copy).

Page 2

Lichak Wood Smoke issue

In 2005 the NYS AG’s Office issued the report
Smoke Gets in Your Lungs. In this report they said that the EPA restricts woodstove emissions. The current restriction is 4.1 grams per hour. Their data showed woodboilers with emissions as high as 269 g/hr. (EPA has data with emissions over 300 grams per hour.)

In 2005 the NY AG wrote a letter with other States to the EPA. The
EPAs response was to create a “Voluntary Program.” Unfortunately a voluntary program does not address
the boilers already in place nor does it stop the sales of the dirtiest boilers. This leaves the States still struggling with the issue. Only the States of Washington and Oregon have laws which require all residential bio-mass to meet one standard and that is the EPA wood stove standard.

The Voluntary Program that EPA put in place claims this will encourage manufacturers to build cleaner devices. It has not. In fact the Phase II devices that many States adopted because of EPA’s program are causing problems too.
Although EPA claims the Phase II boilers are 90% cleaner there is a major problem with how they certify these boilers. They use a test called the OWHH Method 28. Thistest uses kiln dried red oak stacked in a tepee. This is not real world burning so it grossly under reports the emissions from these boilers. Northeast States Air Use Management’s (http://www.nescaum.org) data has shown that a Voluntary Program boiler can still emit 95 grams per hour— way more than even the oldest wood stove that EPA passed laws against in the early 1990s. (NYSERDA also has a report addressing the problems with Method 28.)

Our Nightmare

o10/04 Neighbor installed Outdoor Wood Boiler about 100 feet from our home

This boiler cycled on and off squashing the oxygen to the fire. When the damper opened thick heavy acrid smoke was expelled. The smoke is so dense it drops to the ground and you are forced to breathe it.We are east of our neighbor and our house has a hill behind it with 35 – 40 foot trees. The smoke would come into our yard and surround our home. We could not open our windows in warm weather –these boilers heat hot water so people often use them to heat not only their water for heating but also for general hot water, hot tubs, and swimming pools – they often burn them year round. Our neighbor burned his from Sept. thru May. When the temperature would reach 80 degrees in the Spring we could not open our windows because the smoke would come in. Other impacts included the inability to use our clothes line or porch. Our daughter could not go out and sled in the winter, play on her swingset in the fall, or enjoy the warming days of Spring. We suffered health problems including persistent coughs, burning eyes, respiratory infections. Wood smoke is not healthy.

Page 3

Lichak Wood Smoke issue

Thru the years we tried every avenue to get relief. We started with our Village and they told us they had no laws governing smoke. They did not direct us elsewhere. We have since found that the Dept. of State has a Property Maintenance Code that addresses emissions but localities will not enforce it including ours.

Finally in
April 2008 a friend told us that DEC had jurisdiction. Little did we know what that meant. The only tools they seemed to have were Air Resources
staff that are busy enforcing Industrial pollution and a poorly worded law going back to 1971. Because of the number of complaints they received DEC Region 4 (the Regional Director was one of the authors of
Smoke Gets in Your Lungs) started to send staff to do opacity testing. Opacity testing however requires the sun be behind the tester, requires the boiler to be in the open damper position which can require a lot of staff time, and DEC will not go onto the polluters property so if their view is blocked they cannot get their test. It took DEC untilOctober 23, 2009 to get this test done. A reading over 20% is a violation. DEC had readings as high as 90% on our neighbor’s boiler (the “average” was 72%). DEC allowed the boiler to continue to operate.

The DEC Legal Office told the Air Resources staffthey needed another opacity reading. DEC got that reading on 1/7/10. The readings were as high as 100% with the averages 53.8%, 84% and 87%. The boiler was allowed to continue to operate.

We found out that the boilers are allowed to continue polluting because DEC has a poorly worded law from 1971 that they are using. As we understand it the only way they can stop the pollution is by getting the polluter to agree to stop. They do this by applying monetary pressure. They can fine up to $15,000. In our case they assessed a fine of $3000. Our neighbor signed an Order on Consent on 2/12/10 which waived the fine. He was however allowed to continue to pollute until 4/15/10.

As you can well imagine the “process” for getting back your clean air is very frustrating to all – those being polluted, the polluter and the NYS staff. Our relationship with our neighbor is now horrible. He takes out his frustration on us. In the timeframe between his Order on Consent and actual shut down he burned garbage, wet wood and who knows what else. The smoke was thick, putrid and colored green and blue.

We thought our nightmare was over. It was not.

Page 4
Lichak Wood Smoke issue

October 2010 – our neighbor installed an INDOOR Wood Boiler (Harmon
Trident Boiler SF-160)

Unbeknown to us there are not only outdoor wood boilers that expel thick putrid smoke at ground level, but there are also indoor boilers. In October 2010 our neighbor installed an indoor wood boiler.

The smoke is just as horrendous. NYS still has no emission standard to do their job of protecting the public’s health and EPA still has no laws governing these heavy polluters.

DEC has told us they have no jurisdiction over home heating systems and told us to contact our local code enforcer.

This makes no sense. If this is true then they had no jurisdiction over the outdoor wood boiler since that is a home heating system and Part 211 that they are using has language that does not specify indoor devices versus outdoor.

Conclusion and Requested Action

I hope this clarifies to you the story of our video. In all the research we have done we are just shocked that so many public officials are aware of this problem — AG, DOS, DOH, DEC, County Health, Town and Village Officials and the EPA and yet no one can seemingly protect the health of our children.

The American Lung Association says that asthma rates among children are on the rise. Nearly 1 in 11 people have asthma. It is no wonder to us why that is. The Northeast States Coordinated Air Use Management (
http://www.nescaum.org) estimated that by 2010 there would be 500,000 wood boilers emitting 900,000 Tons of pollution per year.

We need your help in not only getting DEC to shut down this boiler so our family can breathe but also to get the EPA to address this issue for the country. These boilers are now a major contributor of carbon and are causing thousands of families all across the U.S. to suffer. In our research on this issue we have been in touch with citizens groups fighting this very issue in Maine, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut was very active on this issue in his State. He was one of the Attorney General’s that signed the 2005 letter to the EPA. We hope that you and he can work together to resolve this issue at the Federal level and State levels.

Page 4
Lichak Wood Smoke issue

We can meet with your office and share with you more information or to answer any further questions you have.
John and Bonnie LichakEnclosures:

OWB Timeline

NYS Part 211 — existing NYS laws

Chemical Composition of Wood Smoke vs. Tobacco Smoke

Press Release and 2005 Petition to EPA

Nancy Alderman, President
Environment and Human Health, Inc.
1191 Ridge Road
North Haven, CT 06473
(phone) 203-248-6582
(Fax) 203-288-7571

Y: Request for help from the Federal Government (OWF)

This entry was posted in 1. Take Action, Comments against wood burning, Opinion, OWB regulation discussion (statewide), OWB regulations. Bookmark the permalink.

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