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Allegheny County offers 'bounty' for woodstoves, boilers

| Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, 1:06 p.m.

That old woodstove might have new value beyond its rustic ambience.

The Allegheny County Health Department on Thursday said it would pay a “bounty” of several hundred dollars each to people who turn in older woodstoves and outdoor wood-fired boilers that don't meet newer rules for air emissions.

The pilot program comes two months after rules in a county ordinance took effect, cracking down on the wood-fired boilers. The rules are stricter than a state law that took effect in 2010.

“A third of the citizen complaints we get are related to wood smoke,” said Alaina Conner, pollution prevention and outreach coordinator in the county's air quality program.

Officials don't know how many boilers or woodstoves that don't meet Environmental Protection Agency standards remain in use in the county. But they know the danger.

A Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threat Analysis report from the University of Pittsburgh found 20 percent of fine particulate pollution in the county — the kind that gets deep in the lungs — comes from residential fuel, mostly wood.

Those fine particulates cause health problems and keep the county from meeting federal air quality guidelines.

The older stoves and furnaces emit more of them and can choke neighbors.

“It can be especially impactful if someone living in your community has one,” said Jamin Bogi, policy and outreach coordinator at the Group Against Smog and Pollution, which pushed for the stricter county rules.

State law forbids the sale or installation of boilers that don't meet what the EPA calls Phase II standards. They have taller stacks to carry smoke away from neighbors, and they burn more efficiently.

The county on June 8 added to the height requirement, requiring the stacks to reach 2 feet above the top of any home within 150 feet. It requires that retailers report sales of the units to the county, and prohibits their use on air quality action days.

“That will exclude those things from coming in to properties and save us from some future problems,” Bogi said.

EPA rules passed in 1988 reduced pollution from woodstoves by cutting the amount of smoke they can emit from 15 to 30 grams of smoke per hour in old models to 2 to 7 grams of smoke, Conner said.

“The uncertified stoves won't have a tag on the back,” she said.

The county will give as many as 200 county residents gift cards worth $200 each for the older stoves. Recipients can choose from gift cards for Home Depot, Lowe's, Kmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, GetGo or Giant Eagle.

Five people who turn in non-Phase II wood boilers can each get $500 cash. New boilers sell online for $5,000 to $10,000.

The money will come from the county Clean Air Fund, which collects money from air permits and fines.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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