2011 Sept. 26: WA Klamath Falls: (wood stove exchange, natural gas is an alternative) Don’t leave money on the table that would help meet air quality …
Herald and News
… for pumping the tiny, dangerous wood particles into the air? Most of the smoke comes from low-level residential chimneys and clings near the ground. …
Don’t leave money on the table that would help meet air quality standards
Daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s say one thing, but the message from night-time temperatures in the 30s says something different.
The message isn’t just about the ice and snow ahead, but Klamath County’s annual struggle with state and federal smoke regulations, which kick in Oct. 15.
Economic development in the Klamath Falls area is flagging these days and could run into problems from future government penalties, primarily because of smoke from residential woodstoves.
Getting people who use noncertified woodstoves to convert to less-polluting forms of heat is the key to solving the problem.
People willing to switch can get financial assistance. In doing so, they help reduce a local health hazard and help Klamath County meet air quality standards.
The South Central Oregon Economic Development District has $350,000 in grant funds available for Klamath and Lake counties to help replace woodstoves that don’t meet current standards. The district has already provided $800,000 in grants.
The grant program ends at the end of November, regardless of whether the remaining money gets used.
Start penalizing people for violations
There’s something else to be thinking about: When does the county need to move from entreating non-compliant residents to take grant money and instead actually start penalizing people for pumping the tiny, dangerous wood particles into the air?
Most of the smoke comes from low-level residential chimneys and clings near the ground. It’s particularly noticeable in the south suburban area. Most of what’s emitted by industry is released at higher levels and poses much less risk – and there is a lot less of it.
The county has moved with a light touch so far in administering what, by now, are long-standing regulations that should be clearly understood.
The county has until 2014 to meet the standards or face sanctions. Delbert Bell, manager of the Klamath County Environmental Health Division, said after that date, the federal Environmental Protection Agency “can take a variety of actions to obtain compliance if needed. The people of Klamath Falls have been very good at trying to comply with the rules especially since the daily PM-2.5 (particulate matter) standard was lowered in 2006 from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35.”
If there are people unwilling to take advantage of help available to them, the county should move to more aggressive enforcement of the air quality standards by actually fining people who have had a reasonable chance to comply but won’t. There are exemptions and waivers for people who qualify for them.
Bell, who came to Klamath County in 2000, said since that time, two people have been fined, both for open burning rather than violating woodstove regulations.
Bell said when the county discovers a violation of the smoke ordinance by residents, it sends “a strong enforcement letter, which includes a request to call us. When the person calls, we explain what we observed, the rules and the reason for the rules.”
He said the department often refers violators to agencies that can help them, and provides information about the proper use of the stoves.
“Normally after this call, we do not have additional violations,” Bell said.
More than 70 percent of the original SCOEDD grant money has been spent on woodstove conversions and the county previously has used funds for grants to get rid of noncertified woodstoves, including money provided by the city of Klamath Falls. So it appears a lot woodstoves have been converted. The air quality is the better for it.
But that still isn’t enough. The community as a whole pays for unhealthy air by health problems and will pay with a loss of jobs if sanctions are established.
Air in the Klamath Falls attainment area, which includes the city of Klamath Falls and the county urban area outside of it, has to be cleaner. There’s money on the table to help do it, and the county has the enforcement authority to use the “stick” if the “carrot” won’t work. It should do so.
More information about the grant funds for replacing non-certified woodstoves is at www.scoedd.org or call 541-884-5593.