Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Air Time: Swapping free compost bins for illegal burn barrels

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

This is national Air Quality Awareness Week, so in recognition of that, Ecology’s Air Quality Program is offering a look this week at some key Washington air issues.

As luck would have it, this also is national Wildfire Awareness Week. This week signals the start of a joint effort involving the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Ecology. During the next few months, the agencies will work together to reduce the number of wildfires in the state and to prevent health problems caused by breathing smoke.

Outdoor residential burning of yard waste, which is illegal in most parts of Washington, is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions across the state. Such burning includes the use of burn barrels, which is illegal statewide.

DNR and Ecology will exchange free composting bins for burn barrels during upcoming events in several counties. A federal grant from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for wildfire prevention is making this project possible.

We’re in the process of arranging the events. As details are firmed up, they will be posted here on Ecology’s website.

Please note that this exchange offer is only available for residents of the counties in which the events are held. So, if you live in County X, you can’t take your burn barrel to an event in County Y and exchange it for a free compost bin.

Similar exchanges held last year in Stevens and Okanogan counties brought in a total of about 200 barrels. The barrels were destroyed.

Breathing smoke from burning yard waste can cause serious health problems, such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer – even in generally healthy people.

Children, the elderly and people with breathing problems are most at risk from breathing smoke from burning leaves, grass, brush, and tree needles.

Homeowners can compost or chip yard waste to use for landscaping and other purposes. Here’s information on what you can do with yard waste.

Next up: Idling engines have a big impact on air quality.

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