Thursday, January 31, 2013

Around the Sound: Irondale cleanup celebrated

By Michael Bergman, Public Involvement Coordinator


The photo, courtesy of Charlie Bermant of the Peninsula Daily News, shows Chimacum fourth-grader Fox Elder cutting the ribbon during the park celebration.
A spirited and concluding chapter was written on Jan. 24, 2013, for the former Irondale Iron and Steel cleanup site. Jefferson County officials, state agency representatives, members of environmental organizations and local volunteers gathered to celebrate the re-opening of the Irondale Beach County Park.

The event marked the end of cleanup and restoration activities coordinated by Ecology beginning in 2007. The final push began in this past summer, with all work completed at the end of December 2012. When the work was finished, approximately 1.29 acres of new intertidal habitat and 1.65 acres of new backshore habitat had been created.

In addition, the cleanup honored the site as part of the Irondale Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and Washington Heritage Register. Ecology worked with state and federal agencies and tribes to identify and protect structures of historical significance.

As much as possible, larger trees were preserved. Ecology also left in place historic elements such as building foundations and the charcoal-fired kilns that show the character of the iron-and-steel producing operations of a hundred years ago.

The cleanup of the Irondale site has significance beyond the project’s local impact. The Irondale cleanup and restoration was funded by the Puget Sound Initiative, a region-wide effort to restore and protect the health of the Sound.

The Irondale story shows how federal, state and local governments, encouraged and assisted by environmental agencies and volunteers, can make this vision to recover the Sound a reality.

See more information and documents regarding the entire Irondale project.

Air Time: What does that mean?

By Rod Tinnemore, Wood Stove Coordinator, Air Quality Program

Have you ever tried to buy something only to find that the sales person seems to speak a foreign language? If you don’t know the meaning of these words, it can be confusing and frustrating.

The world of wood heating can have this problem, too. Today let’s talk about a few wood-burning devices: wood stoves, fireplaces, masonry heaters and pellet stoves. There are other wood-burning devices and terms that we’ll discuss in later blogs.

Wood stoves began as mere metal boxes designed to burn wood and radiate heat. Some are “free standing” while others are “inserts”, made to be inserted into an existing masonry fireplace. These early wood stoves were improvements over open-hearth fireplaces but are still highly polluting. Today’s wood stoves are designed to put far less smoke into the air IF fueled and operated properly. If you use wet wood or provide too little air to the flame, they may pollute as badly as those early stoves.

Wood stoves tested by EPA and shown in the lab to be less polluting become EPA certified. Wood stoves that meet the air standard in Washington State are Washington approved. All stoves sold in Washington must be both EPA certified and WA approved.

You may also see items called fireplaces or zero clearance fireplaces. Because the naming of fireplaces is not tied to regulation, many items called “fireplaces” may actually operate the same as a wood stove. These metal devices look much like a wood stove insert but are designed to be built into a wall. An open hearth or masonry fireplace differs from a factory-built fireplace since it is built of brick, stone or other masonry. New to the market are modular masonry fireplaces, which are also factory-built but made of masonry and assembled in pieces. See, it’s confusing already. While there is no EPA certification program for fireplaces, all factory-built fireplaces must meet an air quality standard and become Washington approved before they can be sold in this state.

A completely different device is called a masonry heater. These burn wood but direct the smoke through a network of channels within the masonry and then out a chimney. The heat they produce is transferred to the masonry and radiated into the room. These are also regulated in Washington like factory-built fireplaces.

Pellet stoves are cleaner burning devices fueled by pellets made of wood chips or sawdust that have been compressed. Most require electricity but some new stoves can operate fully without electricity while others have advanced batteries that power the stove for days in case of a power failure.

All these devices require a permit before installation. Insurance companies may deny claims related to unpermitted wood burning devices. When in doubt, check the Ecology web site for a complete and current list of approved wood burning devices and contact your local building permitting office about installation code requirements.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Air Time: Kittitas Co. burn ban expires

The Stage 1 burn ban for Kittitas County expired as scheduled at 10 a.m. today (Monday, Jan. 28, 2013).
Ecology issued the ban on Jan. 25. A Stage 1 ban prohibits use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and all outdoor burning.

These activities may resume now. However, residents of areas where burn bans are called should think twice because smoke caused by burning 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 or avoiding burning, local residents 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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Washington State’s Reported Toxic Releases Go Down Again in 2011

by Diane Fowler, Toxics Release Inventory Coordinator, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently posted its latest analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data. While the national data show a 9% (300 million pounds) increase in on-site releases for 2011, on-site releases in Washington have decreased 19% (3.5 million pounds). This continues Washington’s downward trend since the first TRI data was collected in 1987. This is encouraging news!

TRI On-site Releases Reported in Washington from 2001- 2011

(click to enlarge)
The TRI is a publicly available database of detailed information on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories managed by more than 21,000 industrial and federal facilities. This management includes disposal or other releases, recycling, energy recovery, or treatment. A TRI “on-site release” of a chemical means that it is emitted to the air or water, or placed in some type of land disposal.

In 2011, 316 Washington facilities reported releasing 15.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals to air, land, or water. Washington ranks 36th in the nation for total TRI chemicals reported released. Most of these releases were to air.

Total annual TRI releases have decreased in Washington State for more than a decade. There are two notable exceptions.

First, Washington’s TRI totals increased dramatically in 2004 with the reopening of the Pend Oreille Mine. The mine operated for a few years, then closed in early 2009. TRI releases from the mine were primarily lead compounds and zinc compounds placed in surface impoundments, a disposal method for waste within the boundary of a facility.

Second, Hanford’s clean-up activities added millions of pounds of lead to 2010’s TRI. As Hanford removes old buildings from its federal facility, it also removes the lead that these buildings contain for shielding against radiation. Hanford disposed of this lead in a landfill, but it is considered a release to land under TRI.

Find out about releases of toxic chemicals – it’s your right to know!

You can easily access EPA’s data about releases of toxic chemicals to better understand the types and amounts of releases, and the potential risks in your community related to those releases. TRI is an especially important source of data for environmental releases of chemicals of particular concern, such as mercury, dioxins, and other persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals.

Check it out! Many online tools will help you access TRI data. Here are a few of them:

Envirofacts provides access to TRI and other EPA databases that contain information about environmental activities that may affect air, water, and land anywhere in the United States. With Envirofacts, users can learn more about these environmental activities in their area or generate maps of environmental information.

TRI Explorer is a database tool that allows custom searches of TRI data to help communities identify facilities and chemical releases or other waste management activities that warrant further study and analysis. Combined with hazard and exposure information, the TRI Explorer can be a valuable tool for identifying potential chemical hazards in communities.

The Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) provides users with additional understanding of chronic human health issues and potential exposures associated with TRI chemicals. RSEI is a screening-level model that combines TRI information on the amount of toxic chemical releases with other risk factors to help assess the relative hazard and risk of chemicals, facilities, and industries.

You are also invited to contact Washington State Department of Ecology’s TRI and Community Right-to-Know staff at (360) 407-6171 or (800) 633-7585. They are available for presentations and able to provide much more information about hazardous substances and wastes generated in Washington’s communities.

Air Time: Ecology calls burn ban in Kittitas Co.

Ecology has issued a Stage 1 burn ban for Kittitas County because air quality has not improved as expected. The ban is effective immediately on Friday (Jan. 25, 2013).

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn ban will continue until at least 10 a.m. Monday (Jan. 28), when it could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 ban applies to the use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply on tribal reservations, 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 adequate 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. You can report violators by calling Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284).

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

For burn ban updates:
  • Check local media reports.
  • Call Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322 in Washington).
  • Check Ecology’s burn bans web page. (See below.)
  • Go online to 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.

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 a list of certified wood stoves and other information

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood

Check for Ecology burn bans

Washington Air Quality Advisory

WAQA fact sheet

Ecology analysis of fine particles and health

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Public seminar on ocean acidification in Everett on Jan. 24

By Sandy Howard, communication manager, water quality and environmental assessment programs

Snohomish County residents wanting to learn more about ocean acidification are invited to a free seminar at the Everett Station January 24.

The event, hosted by the Snohomish County Marine Resources Committee (MRC), will feature presentations by three members of the Washington State Panel on Ocean Acidification:
  • Terrie Klinger, University of Washington School of Marine & Environmental Affairs ecologist, will present “What is Ocean Acidification?”

  • Shallin Busch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research ecologist, will present “Food Web Implications of Ocean Acidification.”

  • Brad Warren, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and National Fisheries Conservation Center Director of Global Ocean Health, will present “Recommendations, Partnerships and Actions.”
Snohomish County MRC Chair Tom Hoban said, “We’re pleased to be able to help educate the public about ocean acidification. The breadth of its effects has only been recognized within the last decade and most people have never even heard of it. We must not delay in taking action to protect our marine resources from such an urgent danger.”

Ocean acidification & Washington State

Ocean acidification results from carbon dioxide emissions being absorbed from the atmosphere into seawater, forming carbonic acid, radically altering ocean chemistry, and endangering sea life. Between 2005 and 2009, up to 80 percent of the oyster larvae in Washington were killed before the problem was identified and temporary counter-measures were taken.

The 28-member Washington State Panel on Ocean Acidification was appointed by Governor Christine Gregoire in February 2012 and was co-chaired by Bill Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Jay Manning, former director of the Washington Department of Ecology. The panel presented its findings and 42 recommendations for action November 27 in Seattle.

Join us

The seminar is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, January 24, in the Weyerhaeuser Room at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Avenue, Everett. In addition to the Snohomish County MRC, the event is sponsored by the Northwest Straits Commission, Puget Sound Partnership, National Fisheries Conservation Center, City of Everett, and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

For more information:
Visit the state’s website on ocean acidification
See the flier about the event

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Air Time: Ecology ends Kittitas, Stevens burn bans

Burn Ban Update

Effective immediately, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has ended Stage 1 burn bans in Kittitas and Stevens counties.

The Stevens County ban, which took effect Saturday (Jan. 19, 2013) was scheduled to expire this morning (Jan. 22). The Kittitas County ban was issued Jan. 15. A Stage 1 ban prohibits use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and all outdoor burning.

These activities may resume now. However, local residents should think twice because smoke caused by burning 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 or avoiding burning, residents of Kittitas and Stevens counties 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 about $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington. (See below.)

For burn ban updates:
  • Check local media reports.
  • Call Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322 in Washington).
  • Check Ecology’s burn bans web page. (See below.)
  • Go online to 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.

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:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Air Time: Ecology calls immediate burn ban in Stevens Co.


Ecology has issued a Stage 1 burn ban in Stevens County. The ban takes effect immediately.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Stevens County will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, when it could be extended or called off. A Stage 1 ban applies to the use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply on tribal reservations, 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 adequate 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.
For more information on burn bans, see previous posts on this topic.

Eyes Over Puget Sound for Jan. 15

By Sandy Howard, communications manager, Environmental Assessment Program

Here are the most recent aerial photos of Puget Sound surface conditions taken on Jan. 15.

Our cover photograph this time shows the float plane sitting among a large concentration of jellyfish in Budd Inlet' Swantown Marina that winter day.

We saw a persisting pattern of colder and fresher water in Puget Sound. Jellyfish aggregations continue to persist in Budd Inlet. Debris lines are numerous and long. There were multiple oil sheens in Seattle waterways. Our sensors -- a colored dissolved organic matter sensor and en route ferry thermosalinograph -- provided an important tracer for freshwater entering Puget Sound from Whidbey Basin.

On a related note, if you live near Olympia or are passing through our neck of the woods, you’re invited to a public presentation about Eyes Over Puget Sound. It will be at 7 p.m., Wed., Feb. 6, at Olympia City Hall. It’s sponsored by the Olympia Stream Team. For information, contact the city’s Patricia Pyle at ppyle@ci.olympia.wa.us or 360-570-5841

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 installments by subscribing to Ecology’s email listserv.

Burn bans to end in 3 counties; still on in Kittitas County


Ecology will lift the Stage 1 burn ban in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The ban on outdoor burning and use of uncertified wood stoves remains in Kittitas County until further notice.

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

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply on tribal reservations, 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 adequate 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. You can report violators by calling Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284).

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

For burn ban updates:
  • Check local media reports.
  • Call Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322 in Washington).
  • Check Ecology’s burn bans web page. (See below.)
  • Go online to 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.

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 a list of certified wood stoves and other information: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/indoor_woodsmoke/wood_smoke_page.htm

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood: http://burndryfirewood.com/

Check for Ecology burn bans: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/Burn_Ban.htm

Washington Air Quality Advisory: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/

WAQA fact sheet: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/0802022.pdf

Ecology analysis of fine particles and health: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/0902021.pdf

Air Time: Burn Bans Matter


Burn bans in Washington State come in several forms. Bans on burning your wood stove are called health burn bans.Bans on burning outdoors during summer are called safety burn bans.

Health burn bans are called by air agencies that closely monitor air pollution levels and weather conditions.Many western states, including Washington, have periods of air stagnation in the winter.During these cold, stagnant periods smoke will not rise and disperse but stays near the ground.This is especially true in mountainous areas where smoke will fill valleys, affecting everyone who lives there.

As the smoke pollution builds, the impact on health increases.Children, the elderly, anyone with a heart or lung problem, or even those with diseases like Lupus or diabetes, are at risk.The very small particles produced from burning wood enter the lungs and pass into the blood stream, stressing the body. Increases in emergency room visits during air pollution events are well documented.

Health burn bans seek to reduce wood smoke pollution before levels become unhealthy.These bans have two stages.Stage 1 restricts all outdoor burning, all fireplace use and the use of uncertified wood stoves.Stage 2 restricts all of these plus using any wood burning device, including EPA certified stoves or pellet stoves.

Safety burn bans are called by local fire districts.In some locations outdoor burning may be banned year round to protect sensitive populations.Even when outdoor burning is allowed, it is never okay to smoke out your neighbors.

The health effects from wood smoke pollution are very real so please respect others (and yourself) and honor these burn bans.Check with your local air agency, the department of Ecology or your local fire district before you burn.You can check for burn bans of all sorts at http://waburnbans.net/.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Parting Thoughts - Achieving Clean Water, Healthy Fish and a Strong Economy

by Ted Sturdevant, former Ecology director

In my final "Conversations on Washington's Future" message as Ecology's Director, I describe how the amount of Washington-caught fish that people eat affects Ecology's efforts to protect water quality, why more protective measures are needed, and why the issue has stirred so much debate.

While we have made considerable progress in reducing toxic contamination in water and sediments over the years, we need to consider whether or not we are getting to the root of our state's most pressing water pollution problems, and, if not, what actions might cost less and do more.

Our state can point to some remarkable success stories where Ecology, businesses and environmentalists came together to solve similarly complex problems.  I am confident that, by working together, we can attain water that is clean enough for the way it is used, through approaches that are doable both in terms of costs and compliance.

To read my message in full, visit: Clean Water, Healthy Fish and a Sound Economy.

Note: Former Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant is now serving as the Executive Director of Legislative Affairs and Policy for the Office of the Governor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Air Time: Ecology calls burn bans in 4 counties


Today (Jan. 15, 2013) Ecology issued Stage 1 burn bans in Kittitas, Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties. The bans take effect immediately.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for those counties will continue until further notice. A Stage 1 ban applies to the use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply on tribal reservations, 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 adequate 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. You can report violators by calling Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284).

For burn ban updates:
  • Check local media reports.
  • Call Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322 in Washington).
  • Check Ecology’s burn bans web page (see below).
  • Go online to 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.

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 a list of certified wood stoves and other information: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/indoor_woodsmoke/wood_smoke_page.htm

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood: http://burndryfirewood.com/

Check for Ecology burn bans: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/Burn_Ban.htm

Washington Air Quality Advisory: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/

WAQA fact sheet: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/0802022.pdf

Ecology analysis of fine particles and health: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/0902021.pdf

Friday, January 11, 2013

Proper care of your water well can be a matter of life and death

by Lynne Geller, Outreach and Communications, Water Resources Program

An 83-year-old woman in Waterville, Washington did not have a very merry Christmas this past year: she fell into a well on Christmas Eve and sat in cold water for 20 minutes before she was rescued.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. As this blog goes to press, Ecology has learned of two more well-related incidents since the new year began. A construction worker in Shelton fell through rotted boards and down a 45-foot well on January 9. This story was covered in “The Olympian” and by King 5 news.

On January 8, Ecology was alerted by Mason County Public Health that a man fell 30 feet into water in a 42-foot dug well. Luckily other people were nearby and he was quickly rescued by the fire department.


Rotting plywood gave way over a well and a woman fell to her death.
Every year people and animals are injured or killed from a fall into an abandoned or improperly covered water well. Although in recent years there were no reported deaths of people falling into wells in Washington, as recently as August 2012 a woman in Riddle, Oregon fell into a well and drowned. The well was covered with a sheet of plywood that gave way (see photo).

The Oregon woman’s death is a harsh reminder of how any well, if not properly constructed and maintained, can pose safety and environmental problems. The most dangerous are shallow, hand-dug wells. Many of these were originally dug for irrigation, but are no longer in use and covered over by brush and vegetation, making them hard to see. These wells are fairly common in Washington State: for example, there are estimated to be thousands of abandoned wells in King County alone.

State law requires that abandoned wells be decommissioned (filled in), and that wells in use or not decommissioned be properly capped (covered).

Stories of well-related tragedies not uncommon in 2012

Many sad stories reinforce the importance of proper capping and decommissioning. In November, a horse fell into a well and died in rural Thurston County. The cover to the well had decayed and the property owner replaced the cover with a tarp and installed a fence. But over time the fence fell down and horses started grazing around the open well.

In August, an 1,800-pound horse fell into an abandoned well in Centralia and died after a rescue attempt by local firefighters. The horse had stepped on top of a concrete lid that covered the top of a dug well, which collapsed underneath the horse’s weight. A concrete cap does not always offer good well cap protection, as shown in this case where a previous property owner may have used a poor quality cement mixture that was not structurally sound.

In July, a 13-year-old pet draft horse fell through a covering on a dug well that was still in use, near Shelton. The property owner was able to keep the horse’s head above water until fire department rescuers were able to pump the water from the well and pull the horse free.

In recent years, there have been reports of dogs on Vashon Island and near Chehalis who fell into dug wells and died or were injured. In these cases, the property owners covered a dug well with wood which eventually decayed.

Landowner responsible for capping or decommissioning

Washington law holds the current landowner responsible for the proper capping or decommissioning of wells. The landowner could be responsible for any injury or death of animals or humans that may fall into improperly covered wells, and any incidence of contamination.

For wells in use, or not yet decommissioned, proper covering with concrete or non-decaying materials is essential to eliminate any safety hazards. Property owners should inspect and maintain the cover of the well frequently to ensure the cover will not collapse.

A licensed well driller will work with you to decommission a well. A licensed driller has the necessary experience with well construction and decommissioning materials and methods. They also know about the local geology. All of this knowledge is necessary to safely and properly close a well. State law prohibits filling an abandoned well with “dirt” or any other unapproved material.

For more information

Ecology’s Well Construction and Licensing Program website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/wells/wellhome.html.

You can also contact Bill Lum, at Ecology’s Well Construction and Licensing Office, at 360-407-6648, bill.lum@ecy.wa.gov; or well construction staff at any of Ecology’s regional offices.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Air Time: Smoking Doesn't Make Cents

By Rod Tinnemore, Wood Stove Coordinator, Air Quality Program

The goal of every wood stove operator is to turn fuel into heat. For some, wood heat is an optional preference. If that’s you, please choose a heating option that is far less polluting, such as a natural gas furnace or a heat pump. For others, however, heating with wood is an economic necessity. No matter what your situation, a smoky stove costs you extra dollars and time.

Every piece of wood contains energy that can be released through burning. If your wood is too wet, your stove spends some of that energy to evaporate the water. Energy spent this way is energy lost for heating your home. You get less heat from wet wood than from dry wood. Less heat also means it takes more wood to keep warm. That means more chopping, more hauling. Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about it!

It also wastes your money if you give too little air to the flame in your stove. You stove will not give you an efficient burn unless it’s operating as designed, with enough air to burn both the wood and most of the smoke. Even if you have a low cost source of wood, your extra efforts to stoke a smoky stove means time lost for doing other things you enjoy and prefer. When you see a smoky chimney, you might as well envision dollar signs flying into the air.

If you want to learn how to get the most heat for your money and keep the air cleaner,  watch this educational video or ask your local hearth products professional to show you how to run a clean burning stove. It only takes a few seconds to glance at your chimney to see if you’re doing the job right.

Remember, smoking doesn’t make cents.