| Aug 17, 2006

Feature Article - August 17, 2006

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Feature Article - August 17, 2006

Ardenites waqnt township to ban burn barrels

by JeffGreen

Arden residents Margaret Taylor, Brian Garnier, and Heather O’Reilly made pointed, sometimes emotional pleas to members of Central Frontenac Council this week regarding the environmental impacts of the common practice of burning garbage in barrels.

Their immediate concerns are for their own health, as residents of a village where burning takes place in close proximity to neighbouring properties.

Reading from a prepared text, Margaret Taylor said, “I will certainly be the first to admit, however, to the more immediate and selfish concern, that I personally experience when my home in Arden begins to fill with smoke and fumes from across the street as my neighbour burns garbage in their barrel after 7:00 and my asthma kicks into high gear. My air passages constrict, I struggle for breath and call quickly to my husband for help … We set up our emergency ventilator and hope the medication works soon.”


The broader concerns expressed by the delegation are for the long-term impacts of burning in barrels.

“Many common household materials can release toxic chemicals when they are burned, endangering human health. They create inefficient, low temperature fires that burn without much oxygen and this creates dense smoke, full of toxic substances. The only materials that can be burned without releasing unsafe substances are untreated wood, paper, and natural vegetation. Even something as seemingly harmless as bleached paper contains chlorine, which releases dioxin when burned. It’s the invisible pollutants released when trash is burned that are even more harmful,” said Heather O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, Garnier and Taylor included documentation from several sources with their presentation, citing scientific studies in the United States and Canada .

The Great Lakes Bi-National Toxics Strategy, a group that has been working to remediate the Great Lakes from industrial toxins, includes a burn barrel sub-group, made up of scientists from environmental protection agencies in several US states and the US federal government, as well as Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The group has identified burn barrels as a major source of dioxins, claiming that they are responsible for 19% of the dioxins released in the Great Lakes region. In a report released in February of 2004, the burn barrel sub-group concluded, “There is no single activity, short of eliminating this practice of burning, that can significantly reduce the dioxin emissions by the magnitude that is required. At the same time, reducing the overall amount of garbage burned (i.e. by recycling) can reduce emissions.”

Council has looked at open air and incinerator (burn barrel) burning in villages this year. At their June 12 meeting, they received a report from Fire Chief Mark MacDonald. The report did not address burn barrels exclusively, but it did point out some of the concerns they raise.

“The problem lies in the design and use of the ‘burn barrel’”, MacDonald wrote. “Often it would be ironic to call a burn barrel an incinerator. There must be adequate oxygen flow at the base of the fire to create a chimney effect up the barrel, while retaining heat to burn off some of the smoke particulate. If the fire has to draw the oxygen supply from the top of the barrel it actually cools the rising heat column, slowing combustion.”

In terms of burn barrels, MacDonald’s report says council could consider extra restrictions in built up areas, or banning them entirely. But, the report cautions against a highly restrictive burn bylaw, saying, “We will simply force outdoor burning indoors, where people would use their wood heating appliances to burn items (which is not controlled by the burn by-law). This would not eliminate nuisance smoke, but rather change the location of the source by a few metres. In turn, the burning of green wood in a woodstove would lead to creosote build-up and an increase in chimney fires.”

Currently Central Frontenac does not stipulate what kinds of materials can be burned in burn barrels. Inappropriate items, such as plastics and old straw and hay, find their way into burn barrels and this is the source of much toxic smoke.

In response to the presentations this week, council committed to looking at “incinerators” once again when the current permits run out. Incinerator permits cost $2 and enable people to burn in burn barrels after 7 pm throughout the summer months.

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