Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cleaning Up: Work in full swing for Everett Smelter cleanup

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

The (Everett) Herald has a good rundown on the work under way to clean up arsenic and lead contamination from the Everett Smelter at properties in North Everett.

This phase of work will wrap up in spring 2012. More properties will be cleaned up in 2012 and subsequent years.

Check out our Everett Smelter web pages to learn more about the history behind this project, and to see photo galleries of the cleanup effort.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Air Time: Ecology calls off burn bans in Eastern WA

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans will expire today (Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011) in seven Eastern Washington counties because air quality has improved, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Kittitas, and Walla Walla counties will expire at 10 a.m. today.

During the burn bans, use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and all outdoor burning were prohibited.

These activities may resume now that the burn bans are lifted. However, Ecology urges people to think twice before burning because smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices easily builds up at this time of year, when stagnant air conditions can trap smoke close to the ground.

Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

By limiting burning as much as possible, residents of affected areas can help prevent air quality from deteriorating to the point that burn bans are needed. And by following restrictions when burn bans are called, they can help limit the time period the bans are in effect.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For burn ban updates:
  • Check local media reports.

  • Call Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284).

  • Check Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322 in Washington) and Ecology’s website.

  • Go online to http://www.waburnbans.net/.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fecal Matters: Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles is Open

BEACH Program Update

Port Angeles - Hollywood Beach in Clallam County is open for recreational water activity. After receiving notification of a nearby sewage discharge, the county collected bacteria samples at the beach. Results indicate bacteria concentrations have dropped to background levels. Clallam County Health District removed the swimming advisory signs today, previously posted on December 13, 2011.

Visit the BEACH web site to find the latest results for these and other saltwater beaches: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at julie.lowe@ecy.wa.gov


Friday, December 16, 2011

Air Time: Some perspective on burn bans

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Ecology started calling burn bans in some Eastern Washington counties on Dec. 3.

And here we are, nearly two weeks later, with the burn bans still in effect in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens counties. In addition, similar Stage 1 burn bans are in effect in Kittitas and Walla Walla counties.
This morning, I mentioned to Clint Bowman, a veteran Ecology forecaster who participates in burn-ban decisions, that I can’t remember such a stretch during my 5+ years with Ecology.

He replied in an email: “It has been quite a while since we had a two-week ban, but we have a strong long wave ridge that seems to be keeping systems to our north (and south – there seems more energy in the southern branch going into northern Mexico than I’ve seen in quite a while).”

Our bans will remain in place until at least Tuesday (Dec. 20). Other clean air agencies have called bans in their jurisdictions; some have been lifted. EPA has bans in effect on some tribal lands around the state.

In Washington, “home heating season” starts around Oct. 1 and continues through March. This is the period when cold temperatures prompt people to fire up their solid fuel heating devices (like wood stoves and pellet stoves).

The problem is that cold temperatures often mean stagnant air conditions. And when the air isn’t moving, the increased smoke from burning to heat homes is trapped where people can breathe it.

Today (Friday, Dec. 16), several media outlets are releasing an in-depth look at the problems wood smoke poses for public health and for the clean-air agencies like Ecology that try to regulate it. Read it here: Where There's Smoke, There's Sickness.

The story is a cooperative effort involving InvestigateWest, KCTS-TV and KUOW Radio. (The story also was published on the Crosscut website.)

The KCTS portion will air on tonight's "Connects" program.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Burn bans still going in 7 Eastern WA counties

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans will continue until at least Tuesday (Dec. 20, 2011) in seven Eastern Washington counties due to stagnant air conditions, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Kittitas, and Walla Walla counties will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday, when they could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply to tribal lands, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices – including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts – is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

  • Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fecal Matters: Sewage Spill Near Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles

BEACH Program Update

Today, the Clallam County Health Department issued a swimming advisory at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles. The advisory was issued due to a sewage discharge near the beach.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on Facebook, checking beach status on Coastal Atlas, or joining our listserv. Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6543 or julie.lowe@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Capture the King and share with Ecology

By Suzanna Stoike and Johanna Ofner, Department of Ecology


Public invited to share photos of high tide

Did you know some of the year’s highest tides occur in the winter?

These tides — often called “King Tides” — occur naturally when the sun and the moon align, causing an increased gravitational pull on the Earth’s oceans.

This year Washington’s king tides occur in December and January.

The Department of Ecology is again inviting residents and visitors to grab their cameras and head to the beaches for our third Washington King Tide Photo Initiative.


Visualizing what sea level rise might look like

Documenting how these King Tides affect our shorelines and infrastructure (roads, sea walls, buildings, etc.) in Puget Sound and our outer coast helps us visualize what sea level rise could look like in the future.

Ecology collected more than 400 King Tide photos in 2010 and 2011! You can see the photos at the Washington King Tides Photo Initiative’s Flickr Group.

You can view photos taken all along the West Coast on our partner’s Flickr sites: British Columbia, Oregon and California, including San Francisco Bay area, Santa Monica and San Diego.


Point, shoot and upload

To participate in this winter’s Washington King Tide Photo Initiative, follow these steps:
We look forward to seeing your photos for the 2011-2012 Washington King Tide Photo Initiative.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Air Time: Burn ban starts in Kittitas County

By Seth Preston, Communication Manager, Air Quality Program

A burn ban starts at 4 p.m. today (Friday, Dec. 9, 2011) for Kittitas County, where stagnant air continues to trap harmful smoke, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn ban for Kittitas County will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday (Dec. 13), when it could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 ban applies to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply to tribal lands, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices — including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts — is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat. Uncertified units typically were built before 1990 and lack a certification label on the back of the unit.

  • All outdoor burning — including residential, agricultural and forest burning — is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

  • Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.
For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and Ecology’s website. You also can check www.waburnbans.net.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WSU students create a buzz about Hanford among Tri-City youth

By Erika Holmes, Community Outreach & Environmental Education Specialist, Nuclear Waste Program

Working with Jeff Holmes (my husband), an English instructor at the Tri-Cities branch of Washington State University (WSU), we tasked his 48 technical communication students with the goal of reaching high school and college students about the Hanford nuclear site cleanup. Usually when students are given more control over the direction of a project, their interest level increases as does the creativity of their solutions. These students didn’t disappoint, single-handedly informing over 600 young Tri-Citians about Hanford.

A Tri-Cities Prep senior wins a WSU frisbee for a correct answer.
Four of the eight groups chose to present Hanford information in history and science classes at four local high schools. In all, they presented to 14 classes, playing Jeopardy-style games and giving away informative handouts, vitrified marbles simulating glassified waste from Hanford tanks, and WSU and Ecology promotional items.

Another group took a risk by holding a public presentation about the various roles of Hanford contractors and the types of people they employ. Knowing the success of their project depended upon attendance at their event, they offered free pizza afterward and extra credit for Hanford High students who stayed throughout. Their sign-in sheet, which was only available to attendees as they exited, had 51 names on it.

Noor Ullah presents HanfordLearning.com to his classmates.
The remaining three groups sought to reach young minds through the Internet. HanfordLearning.org includes historical and cleanup information with quizzes to test users’ comprehension, video interviews with Tri-Party Agency representatives, and resources for teachers and others interested in learning more about Hanford. This group’s phenomenal work also creates an opportunity for other students to maintain and grow this website.

The B Reactor Hanford Facebook group scored when the reactor’s former historical researcher joined and started posting trivia questions. They deserved the boost based on all they did to bring their membership to 84 people. It took six months to get our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page to 70 people. Because of this group linking to us, we’re now up to 101! This dedicated team talked to friends, visited the CREHST Museum and shot informative videos to upload, walked Richland’s streets with signs advertising gift card raffles for people joining their group and “liking” our page, and impressed the B Reactor staff. The icing on the cake: 23 lucky Facebook group members were offered a special tour of the B Reactor.

The last group created the original, animated video What’s In Hanford’s Backyard?, overviewing Hanford history and cleanup and focusing on why it matters to young people. Their process included researching the issues, writing a detailed script including the narrator’s lines and the accompanying drawings, recording the voice-over, drawing the animations, and finally editing it all into one fabulous movie.

Next step: Going viral.


These students have far exceeded the course goals and our expectations, navigating difficult rhetorical situations in writing and in real-time and communicating about extremely technical subjects while making them understandable to their audience. They’ve become more skilled at collaboration, document design, public speaking, project management, and plain ol’ problem solving. And, did I mention that they reached over 600 other students in less than a month?!

For more photos of the project, see the album on our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page.



Air Time: Burn bans extended; Walla Walla County added

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans will continue until at least Monday (Dec. 12, 2011) in five Eastern Washington counties because stagnant air continues to trap harmful smoke, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

In addition, Ecology also is calling a Stage 1 burn ban in Walla Walla County starting at 10 a.m. Friday (Dec. 9).

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, and Walla Walla counties will continue until at least 10 a.m. Monday, when they could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning. The bans first went into effect on Saturday (Dec. 3).

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply to tribal lands, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices — including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts — is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

  • Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and Ecology’s website. You also can check http://www.waburnbans.net/.

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).

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It uses color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

See this Ecology focus sheet for more information about WAQA.

See a list of certified wood stoves and other information

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ecology, Washington State Patrol and Tukwilla Fire Department responding to semi-tractor trailer truck accident in King County

By Curt Hart, spills communications manager, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

UPDATE: Dec. 8, 2011 (2:45 a.m.)

Ecology, Washington State Patrol, Tukwila Fire Department, Washington State Department of Transportation, King County Sheriff's Office and private cleanup contractors continued working through the night to remove the truck and trailer from the Duwamish River and keep traffic safely moving through the area.

Tukwila Fire Department put absorbent boom part way across river just downstream of the truck. At about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the trailer was removed from the river.

Shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday morning, a crane removed the truck from the river. No diesel fuel spilled from the saddle tank on the truck. An undetermined amount of engine oil did spill during recovery operations.

###

FIRST POST: Dec. 7, 2011 (5 p.m.)

SEATTLE – The state Department of Ecology, Washington State Patrol and Tukwila Fire Department are responding to an incident near the intersection of State Routes 99 and 509 in King County. A semi-tractor trailer truck went over the roadway and into the Duwamish River. The truck was carrying processed frozen fish. The trucking company has hired a private cleanup contractor to remove the truck from the river.

More information about the incident will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

###

Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov)

Dreaming of a greener holiday season

by Margaret Hill, Administrative Services, Lacey

The end of the year can be hard on budgets and on the environment. What follows are some ideas on how to make the upcoming holidays a little greener and maybe even help you keep a little more "green" of your own.

Keep giving gifts, but...

Consider giving the gift of service such as cooking a meal, tuning up a friend’s bicycle, or watching the kids so someone can have a night out.

Request a donation to a charity or give a donation to a charity in someone’s name. It is nice if the charity is a cause that the person is interested in.

Give a family gift instead of a gift for each family member. Give a basket of seeds, a promise of some spring bulbs, or pots and soil for a family herb garden.

Specialty, homemade food items are a great gift. Be sure to include the recipe. Or package up a favorite homemade cookie or cake "mix." All they have to add are the eggs and oil and water if needed.

Give a membership to a museum or zoo.

Give gifts that can be passed on such as a book or game or puzzle.

Buy gifts locally from hometown, independent merchants.

Stand firm on your no-gift policy and respect other people’s requests for no gifts.

Expand your wrapping repertoire

Gift wrapping can also be greener. Try using towels, or t-shirts, or scarves, or pillow cases and make the wrapping part of the gift.

Decorate boxes or bags and turn them into reusable gift containers. Use newspaper, or old maps, or posters. Reuse the gift wrap left over from the year before. You can decorate your box in a patchwork if there is not enough to go around.

Redefine Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, because it was the day when the lords and ladies of the manor took boxes of food or gave money to their servants.

You can start a new Boxing Day tradition by using this day to box up unwanted or duplicate items and donate them to one of the many charities that accept used items.

And be sure to check out some other holiday and winter tips we've gathered!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Public meeting in Des Moines tonight

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Tonight we are holding our fourth and final public meeting on the draft Tacoma Smelter Plume cleanup plan.

Tuesday, December 6, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Des Moines Activity Center
2045 South 216th St., Des Moines

6:30 - 7:00 p.m. Open house session
7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Presentation, question and answer
8:00 - 8:30 p.m. Open house session

Comment period ends December 20th, 2011

Please send us your written comments on the draft cleanup plan. Check our comment period webpage for more information.

There will be more opportunities for public input in 2012 and beyond!

Contact me at Hannah.Aoyagi@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6790 to make sure you are on the mailing list for updates and announcements.

Fecal Matters: Swimming Beach Closure at Seahurst Park, Burien, WA

BEACH Program Update

The King County Health District closed the swimming beach at Seahurst County Park in Burien, WA. The County received notification of a sewage spill near the swimming beach.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv. Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6543 or julie.lowe@ecy.wa.gov for questions.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Air Time: Ecology extends burn bans in 5 Eastern WA counties

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans will continue until at least Friday (Dec. 9, 2011) in five Eastern Washington counties where stagnant air continues to trap harmful smoke.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens counties will continue until at least 10 a.m. Friday, when they could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning. The bans originally were scheduled to possibly expire on Tuesday.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply to tribal lands, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices – including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts – is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

  • Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and Ecology's website. You also can check http://www.waburnbans.net/.

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).

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It uses color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

For more information:

See this Ecology focus sheet about WAQA.

See a list of certified wood stoves and other information.

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ecology, Coast Guard, NRC and Ballard Diving respond to fuel spill in Port Orchard

By Curt Hart, Ecology Communications Manager, 360-480-7908

SEATTLE – The Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard, NRC Environmental Services and Ballard Diving & Salvage will work tomorrow to raise the Top Notch, an 85-foot boat that sank and spilled diesel fuel today inside the Railway Marina in Port Orchard in Kitsap County.

Federal, state and private responders deployed oil containment boom around the area where the boat sank to keep approximately 50 gallons of fuel from further spreading into the marina. They also put out absorbent pads to collect oil on the water.

The Top Notch sank late Saturday, Dec. 3, inside the Railway Marina with about 300 gallons of diesel fuel on board. Divers today were able to close the vents on the boat, which kept more fuel from being released to the water.

Ecology, Coast Guard and cleanup contractors will work tomorrow to raise the Top Notch and safely pump out any remaining fuel and conduct an aerial over flight to determine if any oil has gotten outside the marina.

It is likely that a thin film of unrecoverable fuel may be visible tomorrow morning in Sinclair Inlet.

The reason why the Top Notch sank is under investigation.

Contacts:

Curt Hart, Ecology Communications Manager, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

Walter Daniels, Coast Guard media relations, 808-392-6405

For more information:

Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov)

USCG Homepage (http://www.d13.uscgnews.com/go/doc/21/473415/)

First blog about this spill incident (http://ecologywa.blogspot.com/2011/12/ecology-coast-guard-and-railway-marina.html)

Ecology, Coast Guard and Railway Marina responding to sunken boat in Port Orchard

By Curt Hart, communications manager, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

OLYMPIA – The state Department of Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard and Railway Marina are responding to a 85-foot boat that sank today at the Port Orchard marina in Kitsap County. The wood-hulled pleasure craft, Top Knot, has an unknown amount of diesel fuel on board. Railway Marina has hired a private cleanup contractor to help respond.

More information about the incident will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)
Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Air Time: Burn bans start Saturday in 5 counties

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans will start Saturday (Dec. 3, 2011) in five Eastern Washington counties to protect residents from worsening air quality.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens counties takes effect at noon Saturday and will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday (Dec. 6). The bans could be called off or extended at that time.

The Stage 1 ban applies to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

This means that any burning – in homes or outdoors – that starts before noon Saturday must be extinguished at the time the bans begin.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices — including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts — is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

  • Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and Ecology's website.

You also can check http://www.waburnbans.net/.

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).

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It uses color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

For more information:
Read this Ecology focus sheet about WAQA.

See a list of certified wood stoves and other information.

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Air Time: Air advisories issued for central, eastern Washington

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

The National Weather Service is warning people that stagnant air will cause air pollution to build up during the next several days throughout central and eastern Washington.

The agency’s Spokane office issued air stagnation advisories today for a period starting Friday and continuing through at least Monday morning.

Smoke from outdoor burning and home-heating devices like wood stoves and fireplaces is likely to build up where cold, stagnant air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles lead to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.

You can read more here about health issues related to smoke, and about how Ecology and others work to protect people from breathing smoke.

Ecology has not issued any burn bans yet to limit the use of home-heating devices, but that could change.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and Home Heating Burn Bans page. You also can check www.waburnbans.net for a roundup of bans.