Wood boiler emissions cause for concern

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Five years ago I chose Kenai as my new retirement home. I've lived in Alaska 57 of my 67 years. Having lived in Anchorage, on the Yukon, and Kodiak I chose Kenai for its safe, clean, close knit community. I bought a house in Woodland Estates Subdivision to live out the rest of my senior years. Over the past 5 years I have worked hard to make this modest ranch home my own. To create a home and yard for which I can be proud.

Recently I was diagnosed with Adult On-set Asthma. How lucky am I to live in an area of such clean air. Very little pollution. Until now!

A gentleman has also chosen Kenai also as his new retirement community. He bought a house, one house away from mine. My bedroom looks direct at the back of his house. I noticed he was building something with cedar blocks a few feet from the back of his house. Curious, I asked, " what are you building?" I'm building a house for my "outdoor wood burning boiler." "Do you need permits for that, says I." "No," says he, you only need a permit if the building is larger than 120 sq ft." He's right, I looked it up. I said, " I have asthma that is really going to be a problem for me. I will have to fight you on this one." He shrugged.

I called the City of Kenai. The Fire Marshal. The Anchorage EPA. The Kenai EPA. The Division of Air Quality. All pretty much say the same thing, there are NO codes or ordnance to stop him from polluting our neighbor hood. No one has ever installed an outdoor wood burning boiler in a subdivision within the city limits. I was told, go to your homeowners association. What homeowners association? It's nonexistent!

So, as I understand it, this man can create a public health hazard. We have ordnances restricting where you can smoke. We have ordnance about having live stock in your backyard. If I dared put a egg laying hen in my fenced in backyard I would be fined if I did not get rid of it post haste. Its a health hazard. But this man is allowed to install an OWB which belches thick smoke and creosote, a toxic air pollutant, and a known carcinogens, including significant amounts of particulate matter (PM) of various polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAHS). All of which trigger or aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular problems. PM are so small that they behave much like gases -- they can penetrate homes, even when windows and doors are closed. PM can lodge deep in the lungs of the exposed. Because OWB have a short stack and are located close to homes, there is a greater potential for emissions to create a health hazard for hose living near the unit, including neighbors.

I went to this neighbor with my info. He was happily working, cementing his blocks. I said, "You moved to Alaska, to our wonderful clean air and pristine beauty and now you want to pollute it with that," I pointed to his building. He just stared at me. Never a word. Nothing. I said, "are you aware OWBs have been banned in Fairbanks and other states Phoenix has even banned wood stove and fireplaces. Why do you want to pollute this neighborhood." Again, a blank stare. I said, "there are so many other alternatives than a OWB." He stared more. Obviously, I was not able to convince him of my health issues and how much damage he will be doing to our environment. I said, "well I'm going to have to become your worst nightmare." That got a response. He laughed.

My only recourse is to pull in the big guns; if I don't get some help from the EPA , Planning and Zoning or the Mayor or the City Council then I will have to ask our Congressmen and Senators for help. I don't know where else to turn. My health and life depends on it.

Carolyn Unger


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