It is that time of year when many people find less expensive alternatives to heat their homes, which often include the use of fireplaces and stoves. Together with 32 other areas round the nation, Tacoma and much of Pierce County was found in violation of federal clean air guidelines. The Smoke Reduction Zone was identified in 2009 to help focus activities to lower fine particle pollution in the area. Many factors contribute to fine particle air pollution; however, wood burning is the biggest single contributor to the fine particle pollution in our region during colder months.
Many partners came together to improve the air quality within the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone, offering programs and incentives targeted at reducing fine particulates from wood smoke in the area. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and its partnering agencies worked together to create the “Air. On the Safe Side” campaign to spread the word about complying with burn bans, removal of older, uncertified wood stoves and clean wood burning. The campaign is funded by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, at the Washington Department of Ecology, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to the Clean Air Agency, partners include: the Washington State Department of Ecology, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Pierce County, the City of Lakewood, the City of Puyallup, University Place, and the City of Tacoma.
Joanne Todd, Communication Supervisor the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency explained “We call burn bans when the air quality is in danger of reaching unhealthy levels. These usually occur in the winter and can last several days. Burn bans are called in one or two stages: Stage 1 means you can use your certified stove or insert, gas or propane stoves, or pellet devices. You can’t use your uncertified wood stove or insert. Stage 2 burn bans limit burning to gas or propane devices only. This is all about keeping our air healthy enough to breathe.”
Todd continued, “Our wood stove replacement program is in full swing to help residents move to cleaner heat. Residents of the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone can participate in many ways:
- They can enter to win up to $1,500 toward a cleaner heating device in our drawing.
- Low income residents that live in the Zone and have an uncertified wood stove can get help moving into cleaner heating.
- Do you have an old wood stove you want to get rid of? We can pick it up and we’ll pay you $200. If you are feeling strong and want to bring it to us, we’ll give you $350.”
Find out more by visiting: http://airsafepiercecounty.org/wood-stove-program.
To help reduce wood smoke in your area, Todd suggested: “There are several concrete actions that make a lot of difference: 1. Obey burn bans. 2. Be in the know: text “pierceburn” to 313131 to receive burn ban text alerts – or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. 3. Move to cleaner heating, such as: certified wood stoves, pellet devices, gas or electric heat. 4. If you do burn wood, be smart about it. Burn hot fires; keep the oxygen levels high; burn only dry, seasoned firewood or manufactured logs, where it’s authorized. 5. Never burn outdoors.”
People not in Pierce County can also get involved to help/reduce the air quality problem by also signing up for email alerts at: http://www.pscleanair.org/news/agencynews.aspx.
Together with their partners, the Agency has enhanced their enforcement of burn bans in the Smoke Reduction Zone. Fines for burning during a ban can reach up to $1,000. Todd notes, “First time violators may be able to significantly reduce their fines. We are more interested in changing behaviors and helping residents become aware of the dangers of burning during a ban than fining people.”
For more information about Air Safe Pierce County, please visit: http://airsafepiercecounty.org/. Joanne concluded: “If people want to make sure they know when burn bans are called, they should sign up to receive a text or email, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.”
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com