Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Air Time: "But I already know how to operate a wood stove!"

By Rod Tinnemore, Wood Stove Coordinator, Air Quality Program

Did you know that all wood stoves run best with dry, seasoned wood? Do you know the water content of the wood you burn? Did you know that burning garbage is unhealthy and illegal? Do you regularly check to be sure that only heat waves, not smoke, are all that can be seen coming from your chimney?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may not be quite as informed as you think. Your car or truck is designed to operate with little pollution under a variety of conditions. Not so your wood stove. Your actions as an operator greatly affect what exits your home and fills your neighborhood.

“But my stove is EPA certified!” Even when that’s true, it doesn’t mean it automatically burns cleanly. Your owner’s manual will tell you what is required to make sure the smoke from you stove matches the tested rating of your stove. Vary even a bit from what the manual says and you’ll likely make a pollution problem for yourself and your neighbors.

If you must burn wood, here are some simple guidelines to help you be a better wood stove owner.
  • First, burn only dry, well-seasoned wood. Your wood must be split and kept from the rain for at least six month, preferably a year or more.

  • Second, make small hot fires that quickly bring your stove to a high temperature before you attempt to reduce the air to you stove. This temperature requirement is less vital with catalytic stoves but be sure your catalytic combustor is cleaned and/or replaced according to the schedule in your owner’s manual.

  • Third, always check to see what’s coming out of your chimney. If you see smoke, add more air until you see only heat waves. Smoldering stoves give too little heat and are polluters. Learn to adjust your stove for cleaner burning. Again, never operate a smoky stove.

If all this seems like too much work but you want a wood heater, consider a pellet stove. Their fuel is uniform and low in water content. They are designed to maintain a clean burning flame. Remember, when it comes to wood stoves, don’t smoke! Next time we’ll talk about why a smoking stove doesn’t make cents.

For more information, see Wood Stoves, Fireplaces, Pellet Stoves and Masonry Heaters

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eyes Over Puget Sound for Dec. 13

By Sandy Howard, Communications Manager, Environmental Assessment Program

We’ve just posted the latest aerial photos of Puget Sound surface conditions taken on Dec. 13.

This flight includes observations of Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and Hood Canal.

The cover photo seen here shows  Hood Canal looking south showing the Skokomish River estuary flowing into Hood Canal during high tide. At left, you can see parts of the town of Union.

On this day, the weather was warm, cloudy with weak winds from the south. Surface water temperatures ranged from 8.5-9.5°C. River flows were dropping below expected levels, yet the seasonal increase in freshwater can be clearly seen. Debris lines are numerous near river estuaries.

Algal biomass is down but jellyfish aggregations build up in terminal inlets, most notably in South Sound bays.

“Eyes Over Puget Sound” combines high-resolution photo observations with satellite images, en route ferry data between Seattle and Victoria BC, and measurements from our moored instruments.

Sign up to receive email notifications about the latest “Eyes Over Puget Sound” by subscribing to Ecology’s email listserv here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ecology continues to work to reduce toxics in products

By Dr. Alex Stone, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction

Ecology worked with the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse to release a study documenting the results of testing for toxics in vibrantly colored plastic bags. Specifically, the study evaluated the inks and colorants used in the bags for the presence of four toxic metals — lead, chromium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium.

The Clearinghouse is an association of nine states with similar legislation limiting the amount of these four metals in packaging and packaging components to a total concentration of 100 parts per million. The Clearinghouse was formed by the member states to share resources, provide support to businesses attempting to eliminate toxic metals from their products and coordinate sampling, and evaluation of products for these metals of concern.

The Clearinghouse tested 125 colorful plastic bags from member states across the United States. The bags were scanned using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), a non-destructive technique that allows metal concentrations to be determined within two minutes. Any bags found to fail the 100 parts per million limit using the XRF were sent to a laboratory for confirming analysis.

Out of the 125 bags tested, only three were found to exceed the limit. Two bags were from Washington State and one from Iowa. Representing Department of Ecology, I told the manufacturers and retailers about the problems with these plastic bags after learning that the bags were no longer being used. By informing them of the problem, Ecology was able to prevent it from occurring again, thereby reducing the amount of toxic metals found in this type of packaging.

Furthermore, the relatively small number of bags found to contain unacceptable levels of toxic chemicals was at a new low for a Clearinghouse sampling effort. This shows that the states’ efforts to eliminate the use of these toxic metals is gaining success.

For more information on the study, the Clearinghouse has issued a press release and the study has been posted on their website. If you have additional questions, contact me, Dr. Alex Stone, either via email or phone at 360-407-6758. Or visit Ecology’ Toxics in Packaging website.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Around the Sound: Responsiveness summary for the Rayonier Mill site now available

By Diana Smith, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

This fall, Ecology held a public comment period on changes to the agreed order (legal agreement) for the Rayonier Mill site.

The agreed order now includes cleanup work during the City of Port Angeles’ combined sewer overflow (CSO) project. The materials management plan describes the interim action (partial cleanup) tasks on the Rayonier Mill property.

We have finished reviewing the comments and questions we received during the comment period. We have responded to them in a responsiveness summary. We have also added a new section to the materials management plan to clarify several things about which we received questions and comments. The new material management plan section is called an addendum. The responsiveness summary and addendum discuss:
  • Managing soil stockpiles temporarily and longer-term.
  • Over-excavating and managing remaining contaminated soil.
  • Managing and treating groundwater and stormwater.
  • Managing materials other than soil.
  • Managing de-watered sediments.
  • Related reports and specifications.

You can read about the work going on now on the Rayonier Mill property in this blog post.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Understanding wood fires, burn bans and other smoky topics

by Sean Hopkins, air quality smoke management team lead, Central Regional Office

It's that time of year again when air quality deteriorates quickly, and outdoor, woodstove and fireplace burning can be restricted. Please remember to stay updated on burn bans in the counties where you plan to burn either at home or while on vacation.

When it is OK to burn, remember to burn small, hot fires using clean, dry wood: only clear vapor should be seen from your stack. No garbage, plastic or wet wood please!

How burn bans work

When fine particle pollution found in smoke reaches unsafe levels, Ecology and local clean air agencies can call county-wide burn bans in their jurisdictions. These bans protect people's health by limiting wood burning in those areas. Ecology and the clean air agencies use news media and social media to get out information on burn bans. The information also is available online at http://waburnbans.net. Ecology post notices about its burn bans on the agency's website at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/Burn_Ban.htm.

Last winter, Ecology issued burn bans in Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Kittitas, Okanogan, Stevens, and Walla Walla counties. Local jurisdictions in Western Washington, Spokane, Yakima and Benton counties also put out no-burning notices.
Burn bans are called in stages:
  • Stage 1 burn bans are called based on weather conditions and rising pollution levels. No burning is allowed in wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or uncertified fireplace inserts, unless it is your only source of heat.
  • Stage 2 burn bans are called when fine particle pollution levels reach a “trigger value” set by state law. No burning is allowed in any wood-burning fireplace, wood stove or fireplace insert (even certified models), unless it is your only source of heat.
Violating a burn ban could lead to penalties, including fines.
All outdoor burning is banned during either Stage 1 or Stage 2 burn bans, even in areas where outdoor burning isn't permanently prohibited. The bans include agricultural and forest burning.

You can also sign up to receive email notifications about burn bans from Ecology's website here: http://listserv.wa.gov/cgi-bin/wa?A0=WA-AQ-HEALTH-BURN-BANS.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fecal Matters: Swimming Advisory at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles, WA

BEACH Program Update

Today, December 4, 2012, Clallam County Health & Human Services issued a 7-day swimming advisory at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles, WA. The advisory is issued because of a combined sewer overflow that discharges 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 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.

Fecal Matters: No Contact Advisory for Port Gamble Bay, Kitsap County, WA

BEACH Program Update

On December 3, 2012, the Kitsap County Health District issued a seven-day no contact advisory for Port Gamble Bay, near Port Gamble, WA due to a nearby sewage spill. Health District staff posted warning signs at public access areas and public beaches throughout the Bay. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water and not harvest shellfish.

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.