Wood Burning Letter to Lane County Commissioners

January 13, 2010

Lane County Board of Commissioners
125 East 8th Ave.
Eugene, OR 97401

Dear Lane County Commissioners,

Wood burning is a significant source of air pollution in Lane County, especially during the winter home wood-heating season, and in urbanizing areas of the County such as River Road.

Measured levels of fine particulate matter in our air at times approach or exceed federal health benchmarks. Except for an occasional spike during an intrusion of smoke from a wildfire or field burning, the highest levels of fine particulate (soot and smoke) pollution occur during the winter months (November-March), and the levels go up every afternoon and evening, correlating with the time of day when residents are burning wood to warm their homes.

Fine particulates from wood smoke pose a serious health risk, and they lodge deep in the lungs and are not expelled. Wood smoke can severely impact those with heart or lung problems or allergies or asthma. Older adults, pregnant women and children are most vulnerable.

In trying to understand what local and state policies are in place to address wood smoke pollution, we have learned that Lane County has not modified its rules on residential wood burning (Lane Code 9.120–Restriction on Use of Solid Fuel Space Heating Devices) to reflect the newest (stricter) federal fine particulate matter standards. Thus, technically speaking, LRAPA may not have the authority to enforce its current wintertime wood burning advisories (red advisory=burning is prohibited; etc.) in the unincorporated areas of our neighborhood.

We ask that the County rectify this situation by adopting changes to Lane Code to reflect the stricter federal fine particulate standards. It is important that LRAPA be able to enforce red advisories in our neighborhood in the event of an inversion or other condition that leads to an accumulation of unhealthy levels of smoke in our air. It is confusing for both residents and local agencies to have two different fine particulate standards on the books, with different standards applying to immediately adjacent properties.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Jolene Siemsen and Carleen Reilly, Co-Chairs
for the River Road Community Organization Executive Board (unanimous vote)
c/o Jolene Siemsen
190 Hawthorne Ave.
Eugene, OR 97404