Fines for burning wood or coal during mandatory no- burn days in Tooele County increased to $150 for a first violation this year, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality.
And additional violations will be subject to penalties of $299.
“Before, the first-time penalty was $25,” said Jared James of the Utah Division of Air Quality. “The program has been in place now for 10 years and we felt that people are more aware of the program now so we should make it a bigger penalty.”
Wood and coal burning stoves or fireplaces must not be used during mandatory no-burn days issued by the state, according to DAQ guidelines. People should also reduce vehicle use by consolidating trips, and industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air pollution emissions.
Items prohibited during no-burn days include wood fireplaces, wood stoves (both EPA certified and non-certified), pellet stoves, outdoor fireplaces or fire pits, charcoal grills, smokers and coal burning stoves.
Natural gas appliances and propane stoves are acceptable. Wood-burning restrictions in the county and across the state went into effect on Nov. 1 and will continue through March 1.
Bo Call, of DAQ, said wood burning restrictions aim to reduce hard-to-see particle pollution that builds up during winter inversion periods.
“The winter inversion season has a nominal start on Nov. 1 and usually lasts through February or mid March,” he said.
“During the winter season, air quality can become worse due to secondary formation of ammonium nitrate that forms in the air from pollutant precursors emitted by pollution sources like cars, houses and industry,” he added. “This requires cold temperatures so we see the resulting elevation of PM2.5 levels during the winter. As a practical matter, this is not really an issue outside of the November through March time frame.”
Call said air quality in Tooele County has been quite clean in recent years, even during the winters.
“What we see is a ramping-up of pollution as an inversion sets up,” he said. “Pollution increases until the next storm front comes through, and washes everything out and then we start again. When we get frequent storms and weather events, then the pollution does not have that much time to form and concentrate.”
He said efforts to reduce pollution-generation activities can reduce the amount of pollution emitted daily and extend the time it takes for the air to get bad.
“This can be a shift from three days to four days or longer,” Call said.
If violations of burning restrictions are observed by the public, they can report it to DAQ by calling 801-536-4000 during business hours, or by filling out a simple form online at: airquality.utah.gov/Compliance/complaint.htm.
The DAQ monitors air quality hourly and the information can be found at air.utah.gov/forecast.
The health forecast runs from good to moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups, to unhealthy to very unhealthy and hazardous.
Action forecasts from the state run from unrestricted action to voluntary action to mandatory action.
Tooele’s air conditions can be found daily at tooelehealth.org. According to the website, conditions range from good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous.
Good air quality poses little or no risk. With moderate air conditions, some people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.
Unhealthy means people sensitive to bad air should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion. This includes people with lung disease, such as asthma, children or older adults and people who are active outdoors.