State groups petition CT DEEP for wood smoke regs

The American Lung Association of the Northeast, the Sierra Club of Connecticut, and Environment and Human Health, Inc. are submitting a legal “petition” to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) asking that agency to set regulatory air standards for residential wood smoke emissions.
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment also has submitted a letter to the CT DEEP calling for strong action from the agency on this issue.

The petition to the CT DEEP asks that they adopt wood smoke air regulations similar to those that the State of Washington has had for many years.

The CT DEEP has generated a map that documents the wood smoke complaints that have come to them from all over the state from people who are being harmed by their neighbor’s wood smoke.

If Connecticut fails to promulgate wood smoke air standards, it will mean that homeowners will continue to install hundreds of wood burning appliances that are far more polluting and harmful than they would be if heath protective wood smoke air standards were in place.

Below are some of the complaints of wood burning furnaces that Environment and Human Health, Inc. of North Haven has released.
North Grosvenoradel, CT (Northeast corner of CT)
“Our neighbor has an Outdoor Wood Furnace. We live on a hill above him and his OWF chimney and is level with our yard. My children play in smoke. I have at least four migraines a week from the fumes. Several contractors who were putting siding on our home last fall were shocked because of the heavy smoke and had to work with their faces covered with their sweatshirts. No one will help us. We have called the building and zoning Department, the fire department, the state police, the health department and the CT DEP. No one has helped us. My eight and ten-year old children have no rights, but my wood-burning neighbor does? I have filmed the smoke but I cannot film the fumes. The situation causes me to cry because it is emotionally so exhausting.” I chip away at the pathetically poor protection that we have in this state and I pray for all the less fortunate who have even poorer health than I do.”

New Hartford, CT
“Our neighbors installed an outdoor wood furnace in Nov. ’08, 2008. We had contacted our town who referred us to the DEP. The smoke has been coming into our property and into our home and making us all very ill. We have been having eye irritation, difficulty breathing, headaches, sore throats and feeling nauseous. My little boy had to be placed on steroids and nebulizer treatments due to his breathing difficulties. I have gone to the Farmington Valley Health Dep., but they state that DEP is the only one that has jurisdiction. The smoke and smell is horrible. Mark Potash from DEP did finally come out on 11-12-08 and found the furnace in violation, and informed me to call in nuisance claims if the smoke was still coming onto our property, which it constantly is. I have left numerous phone calls and have only been able to obtain two responses back from the DEP. It’s not fair that we are not able to breathe fresh air.”

Newtown, CT
“There is an outdoor wood furnace 100 feet from my home. I went to my board of Health here in Newtown and at first they said it’s not under their jurisdiction but I showed then a letter posted on your site concerning the town of Monroe and how they were able to shut one down. They took notice to that letter.
The board of Health here in Newtown wants to see what the DEP says before taking action.
I also printed reports and such concerning the health issues, and Richard Blumenthal’s actions to have them banned. Your site is a great recourse of information and it is comforting to know i am not the only one living this night mare. The outdoor wood furnace is less than 100 feet from my house it’s huge! The smoke gets into our house. The smoke smells like an old apartment house incinerator!! It’s disgusting. I left a packet of all this information on my his outdoor stove with a follow up that i will sue him for health related damages.
Right now the outdoor wood furnace is off and I can breathe. I am waiting for the DEP to come. I will keep you posted.”

Weston, CT
“My neighbor across the street has an outdoor wood furnace and it has become an extreme disturbance and problem in our lives. Once he begins using his furnace in the fall I can no longer open my windows to get fresh air, in fact, my house is always contaminated by his wood smoke. I found out that indoor air is 70% of what is outdoors…that no windows or doors can keep the smoke out. I also cannot hang any laundry out on my line because it will get completely smoked out and thus I am forced to use more energy with my clothes dryer. We are very health conscious and environmentally conscious people who make decisions carefully so that we don’t leave much of a footprint.
We feel extremely frustrated that we are defeated in our efforts by someone else’s lack of consideration. One of my children recovered from a serious autoimmune disease before we moved into our house (3 years ago) and had we known the circumstance with my neighbor we would never have bought it. No one in my family had ever suffered any upper respiratory illness until three years ago. At that time I was very ill and had borderline pneumonia. The following year my entire family spent a day outdoors on our property doing yard work and playing and 3 days later we were all sick with bad coughs and I again was close to pneumonia.
We are very careful not to go out anymore when his furnace is in use and try to have our property cleaned up in the fall before he begins using his furnace. There are times when the smoke is at ground level. I can never even feel comfortable letting my own children out to play for fear of their breathing the toxic wastes. If we could afford to move we would.
We feel trapped and defeated not only by our neighbor but by our town and the illogical grandfather laws allowing someone to harm others if they have been doing it already before a certain time.”

Brooklyn, CT
“In September of 2005, my next-door neighbor installed an outdoor wood-burning furnace also known as an Outdoor Wood Boiler. The putrid smell and black smoke would cross our property line, come into our home through windows, doors, air conditioners, and even our dryer vent, causing us to have to wash the clothes a second time.
Our two young daughters and I began experiencing breathing problems that lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, and several sinus and upper respiratory infections. After many visits to our doctor and visits to our local emergency room, the pulmonary doctor found a decrease in my lung function.
In January of 2006, the CT DEP cited my neighbor with an opacity violation, and also found his wood-burning furnace to be out of compliance with the new setback regulations of 200 feet from the nearest resident. As well, his outdoor wood burning furnace stack was not high enough – as it needed to be higher than the rooftops of houses within 500 feet. The DEP issued an administrative order to shut his OWB down and required him to move it. He did, and now he is supposedly operating his OWB legally.
However, the wood smoke from his Outdoor Wood Furnace still comes into our home and we still continue to get sick.
In 2008, the DEP once again cited him with a nuisance odor violation, and he once again was ordered to shut down for a short time period, but allowed to burn again. Because the DEP has not found a violation in 2009, they have closed the case.
Our children are not able to play outside — due to the excessive amount of smoke in our yard, and I even have to drive them down our driveway to their bus stop because the smell of smoke is too strong for them to have to walk.”
East Haddam, CT
“I like to stay outside and exercise my horses and pick up my yard. However, the wood smoke in our yard has become so bad that it is next to impossible for me to stay outside. I fear that I will develop lung cancer from breathing so much smoke in. I feel sick to my stomach from breathing in wood smoke. My horse has developed a cough and I have a cough and congestion. This goes on for practically six months out of the year. Some of these people burn garbage too. There are no controls at all.
My hair and clothes smell of wood smoke as I am writing this. I am very upset at having to be subjected to wood smoke. Why was cigarette smoking banned in public places if there are no controls on wood smoke? I counted eight houses within a 1/4 of mile of each other that burn wood stoves. How many cigarettes is that equivalent to? I have complained to the fire department and I will complain to my town’s Health Department tomorrow. Something needs to be done to regulate wood burning to better protect people from their neighbor’s wood-smoke.”

New Hartford, CT
“My home is in a quiet neighborhood situated on top of a hill, off the main roads. Everyone has at least 2 acres of property. You would think this would be one of the last places to worry about air quality. One of my neighbors has an outdoor wood furnace whose wood smoke emissions has prevented my family from full enjoyment of our property.
In 2008, my O.W.F. neighbor kept using it the entire year, even in the middle of summer. The other neighbors and I started talking about the wood smoke and acrid smell crossing our property lines and into our homes. There was an occasion in the summer of 2008 when I was speaking to two other neighbors, and we watched a plume of slow-moving smoke at ground level crossing their properties. The condition was just right that the smoke travelled a long distance. I estimate from the property sizes around here, the smoke was visible 800-1000 feet from the O.W.F. source and it went through 3 properties (not including the property of the O.W.F. source). (The 200 ft. distance spec. in CT Public Act 05-227 is ridiculously too short.)
At the time, I didn’t know the physics behind the O.W.F. After researching it in the fall of 2008, I was amazed how crude the technology is. I got concerned about the potential health effects of the wood smoke emanating from the O.W.F. as stated in the documents I read. I have two small children and once I learned about the negative health impact, I decided to become active in pushing my town to put a moratorium on new O.W.F.’s and to adopt wood smoke and odor crossing property lines regulations.
At least my O.W.F. neighbor has stopped using it during the summer, but he started using it again on September 30th last year. October is still way too early to use these products. I’m trying to also get my town to specify only November 1st to March 31st as the only allowed time to use these products.”

Eileen FitzGerald