Monday, February 23, 2015

Air Time: Mild weather drawing you outside?

Consider alternatives to burning as you gather brush, leaves and yard waste

By Joye Redfield-Wilder, communications manager, Ecology's Central Regional Office

Unseasonably warm weather has many of us poking around in our gardens. The camellias are blooming, the daffodils and tulips are already poking up, and that yard debris you didn’t get to last fall may be calling to you.

Household chippers are affordable and create instant groundcover
With a little planning, you can turn that yard waste into a useful product – simply by chipping, mulching and composting. Household chippers are quite affordable these days and the shredded branches, twigs and leaves make a great groundcover and mulch around your home.

Composting creates a useful soil amendment, and like chipped materials, can save you from having to buy a comparable product at the garden store. Many communities have yard waste collection programs or community gardens where composting might be available.
Putting your waste to use in your yard has other benefits; it’s good for air quality and helps prevent unintended wildfires.

The Department of Natural Resources reports that in the past four years 562 unattended burn piles scorched 2,317 acres across the state. The smoke and damage from such fires is costly, not only in terms of human health, but also in responding firefighters and property loss. It’s just not worth the risks.

Burning leaves, twigs and other yard debris creates smoke that’s both a nuisance and harmful to you, your children and neighbors. Fires must be kept small and be attended with a water supply nearby to extinguish if it gets out of hand.

What a hassle when there are so many easy alternatives!

While burning remains an important tool for forest health and agriculture, outdoor burning was phased out in urban growth communities (UGAs), in 2006. Land clearing, agriculture and forest land fires require burn permits and such prescribed burning is only allowed on days when ventilation is good. You can be fined for illegal burning or burning without a permit.

Don’t ever burn garbage. Burning plastic, treated wood, garbage and even processed paper releases harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, mercury, arsenic, benzenes and dioxins to the atmosphere. Exposure can cause asthma, burning eyes, bronchitis, lung disease and chronic heart disease.

Though common in rural areas, burn barrels are banned in Washington.

This spring, arm yourself with a rake, chipper and spade and choose to mulch, chip and compost. Roll up your sleeves and breathe in the sparkling clean air of an early spring!

Related information:

  1. Don’t burn it, recycle it!  Composting on your property is easy and there are many facilities that use this valuable material.

  1. If you must burn, know the rules! And your local Air Authority jurisdiction.     

  1. Be safe! Know who your local fire department is and what their rules are for both your home and vacation properties. Post this info at your cabin or on your refrigerator. 

  1. Make sure it’s a burn day! This applies to outdoor burning and woodstoves too. or call 800-406-5322, burn decision hotline. 

  1. If you see someone burning illegally report it! Call 866-211-6284 statewide, 24-hour, toll free.

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