Tuesday marked the end of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s 13th season of the Check Before You Burn program, with fewer burning prohibitions issued and cleaner air results.
The Check Before You Burn program aims to minimize the amount of harmful particulate matter that is released into the Valley air basin by restricting when residential wood-burning devices can be used. From November to February the air district releases a declaration each day on whether or not wood-burning devices, such as fireplaces, can be used. The declaration is based on the air quality index for the day and whether or not the particulate matter from wood-burning devices would push it into a zone that is above federal and health guidelines.
Last winter, the regulation was amended to allow users of EPA Phase II-certified clean wood-burning devices to register them with the Air District and use them more frequently than they were allowed in past winters.
“We are moving in the right direction thanks to the cooperation of Valley residents and their investments in cleaner devices,” said Seyed Sadredin, the Air District’s executive director and air pollution control officer. “Together with the increased funding for the Burn Cleaner program, which grants money for the purchase of cleaner devices, Check Before You Burn has had a very positive effect on winter air quality in the Valley.”
For Stanislaus County, the Air District issued 50 “no burning unless registered” declarations this season, compared to 69 the previous winter. The entire district issued 364 “no burn unless registered” declarations for this season, which is down from the 542 issued last winter.
The Air District did not issue any “no burning for all” curtailments in the entire region that prohibits both registered and non-registered devices from burning. Last season they had one curtailment issued for Stanislaus County and 36 for the entire district.
The Air District also reported that there were fewer days this season in which the fine-particle level exceeded the federal health standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
The number of violations issued in Stanislaus County dropped by one this year. This winter the Air District issued 109 violations, compared to 110 last winter. The Air District issued 404 violations this season, down from 551 last season. A first time offense nets a fine of $100, but the fine can be cut in half if the resident completes the district’s air pollution exam. A second offense costs $300; additional fines can run up to $600 to $1,000.
Valley residents wanting to switch out older wood-burning devices for a cleaner model can still take advantage of the District’s Burn Cleaner grants which provide $1,000 for certified wood, pellet inserts, freestanding stoves or natural gas inserts or $2,500 for eligible low-income applicants for all devices. An additional $500 is available to all applicants for the installation costs on a natural gas device. Visit www.valleyair.org/burncleaner for program guidelines.
Those needing to register their clean-burning devices can do so at www.valleyair.org/CBYBregistration.