Editor’s Note: The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has just sent the Mountain News the following alert about another episode of dirty air.
This is the third strech of time this winter that local residents have had to breather unhealthy air. The three events total 11 days of breathing dangerous levels of smoke and toxins that send thousands of people indoors, doctors, or to area hospitals.
These statistics seem to refute newly-elected Pierce County Councilmember Jim McCune’s ascertain that the county’s bad air problems are minor, and only occur about “five times” a winter.
McCune’s office has been asked multiple times by the Mountain News what the Councilmember’s assessment of the problem is, but Jim has declined to offer any comments.
Newly-elected State Senator Randy Becker has also chosen not to comment substantively on this issue, even though she is the new chair of the Senate Health Committee. However, Senator Becker has told the Mountain News at a recent Town Hall gathering that she doubts the state’s health findings regarding smoke and pollution.
Nevertheless, Washington state health officials claim that at least 140 people will die this year from chronic exposure to wood smoke and cost the government over $190 million for health costs.
Stage One Burn Ban Called for Pierce County
Effective 1 pm, January 12, 2013
The Use of Fireplaces and Uncertified Wood Stoves Is Prohibited Until Air Quality Improves.
Outdoor Burning Is Also Restricted
Effective at 1 p.m. today, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is issuing a Stage 1 burn ban for Pierce County. This ban remains in effect until further notice. The purpose of a burn ban is to reduce the amount of pollution that is creating unhealthy air, usually due to excessive wood smoke.
Agency forecasters expect the current high-pressure weather system to continue through Sunday night and with it the cold and still weather conditions we’ve been seeing. That – coupled with weather inversions in the evening - will likely result in air pollution becoming trapped near ground level.
Pierce County in particular could see levels of air pollution reach the “UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS” level, especially in areas where wood burning is common. Snohomish, King, and Kitsap Counties should have some light winds, and should have lower pollution levels, staying at the “MODERATE” air quality level. The Clean Air Agency will continue to closely monitor the air quality and weather situation.
Burn ban enforcement has significantly increased in the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone. Wood burning during a ban may result in a fine, with fines in the past reaching $1,000. Increased enforcement and night patrols will increase the likelihood of violators receiving substantial fines this season.
During a Stage 1 burn ban:
- No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled.
- No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.
- Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.
It is OK to use natural gas, propane, pellet and EPA-certified wood stoves or inserts during a Stage 1 burn ban
The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).
For more information
- Frequently asked questions about burn bans
- How to heat efficiently and cleanly
- Updated air pollution data and forecasts
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is an air quality management agency serving King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Created as a result of the 1967 Washington Clean Air Act, the agency protects public health by adopting and enforcing air quality regulations, educating individuals and businesses about clean-air choices and sponsoring voluntary initiatives to improve air quality.