Mt. Vernon Register-News

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June 10, 2014

Burning issue moves forward

MT. VERNON — Information on the health risks of leaf burning and how other municipalities is on its way to the city council.

“When I started looking into this, I was looking from two issues and a lack of awareness on them,” said City Councilman David Wood. “The first was safety and the other the health hazards. ... I wanted to find out how serious a health issue this is for residents and did some homework.”

The homework included going to local oxygen retailers in the city and finding out how many people had serious breathing problems.

“I was found there are 800 to 1,200 people on oxygen in the city limits,” Wood said. “That’s 6 percent of the population, roughly, that are on oxygen.”

In addition, Wood said he was able to speak with one pulmonary specialist and found out asthmatics — those diagnosed and many that aren’t — as well as those who are diagnosed with other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, make up a larger portion of the population.

“Asthma or other illnesses affected by leaf smoke brings that estimate up to a third of the population,” Wood said. “That was an eye-opener to me. I know it’s not a scientific study, but that’s a lot of our residents who are affected. I went from this issue being the right thing to do to this being a compelling health issue for our residents.”

Under the existing ordinance which addresses leaf burning, the burning of leaves is allowed two times each year — between October 1 and Dec. 15 and between March 1 and April 30 on weekends only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Although there is no legal burning going on at this time, Wood brought up one large fire he saw this weekend.

“The grade school district was burning behind the maintenance building,” Wood said. “I spoke to the maintenance people about my concern, and they said they had called the fire department to inform them they were having a wiener roast. What I saw were flames reaching 6 to 12 feet high, not a wiener roast. I’m all in favor of having family time and a wiener roast and being sure to inform the fire department when something like that is going on, but I was under the impression that as long as they called it a wiener roast, it was fine with the fire department and allowed.”

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