Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years
Regulation of Open Burning Starts
Since June 1, 1972, the DEP has regulated open burning and wood burning through the adoption and enforcement of regulations. The original regulations to limit and control open burning were adopted by the Connecticut Department of Health in 1970.
Prior to the early 1970s, it was not unusual for people to burn trash and leaves in their backyards. If you are old enough, you may remember the smell of burning leaves in the fall and the sight of black smoke coming from chimneys across the state. Open burning, however, pollutes the air and can make it difficult for people with respiratory problems to breathe. Open burning can also create smoke and odor nuisances as well as health risks to nearby residents, particularly in densely populated areas.
DEPís early regulations set opacity standards for sources of visible emissions. Visible emissions from sources were limited to a shade of black, as compared to the percentage of black dots on a card held at a distance. This system, known as the Ringlemann chart, enabled field personal to enforce these standards based on the percentage of opacity of the air pollution and resulted in operators reducing particulate emissions from fuels that were causing the opacity exceedences.
Open burning regulations dictated what and when people could burn, implemented a permit system and established conditions for no burn days. Residents and municipalities were permitted to burn vegetative material under prescribed conditions, including not causing a nuisance. The burning for salvage, demolition and trash in the open air was prohibited. Composting and reuse of material was promoted as an alternative to burning. Today, Section 22a-174(f) of the Connecticut General Statutes regulates the open burning of brush. The DEP and local officials permit and enforce burning activities within each town.
Today, DEPís focus on smoke is mainly residential wood burning sources such as outdoor wood burning furnaces, wood burning furnaces and wood stoves. These units, depending on operation, topography and weather conditions, can emit smoke which stays at ground level and impacts neighboring residences. With the uncertainty in the foreign fuels market and fuel prices, the emphasis is on educating residents on how to burn wood in the least polluting manner.
What You Can Do To Help
Buy dry, or seasoned, firewood that has been stacked and dried for a period of at least six, but preferably twelve months. Green wood creates excessive air pollution and creosote buildup in your chimney, while dry firewood burns efficiently and does not promote creosote buildup.
Get your chimney cleaned and inspected each year. All wood burning devices should be installed according to state and local requirements. If you are purchasing a wood burning unit make sure that it is EPA certified as these are much more energy efficient than older uncertified units, ensuring that you will obtain the full heat value of your firewood.
Buy local firewood. Buy your firewood from Connecticut wood dealers who are in the business of supplying firewood. Don't burn construction scrap or wood from other questionable sources. Importing firewood from other parts of the country could easily import invasive pests, like the Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer.