The board of selectmen did not pass an ordinance Monday to ban outdoor wood-burning furnaces. But that is not the end of the story.
The board wants to see what the state legislature decides on a bill before it on the issue. The state law would include a provision exempting agricultural use and would ban furnace use from May 15 to September 15.
Also in discussion at the state level is mandating that the installation of any such furnace meet a “Phase II” emmission standard. If approved, the state bill would take effect Oct. 1.
The selectmen will take up the issue again when the legislature takes action on the bill or at the end of the session, which is June 1.
Steve Swenson, who lives on Lawton Drive, has lived near an outdoor wood-burning furnace for several years and supports a ban. He has a child with asthma and the furnace smoke exacerbates the condition.
Any state bill or town ordinance enacted would not affect existing structures in terms of setback requirements or furnace type. An existing furnace would have to comply with the seasonal use clause of any bill or ordinance.
Don Tuller, who lives on Farms Village Road, said the state law should be sufficient to regulate the furnaces. If the town decided to enact its own ordinance, he requested that an exemption for agricultural use be included.
T. Michael Morrissey, of the lobbying firm Evans & Associates in Hartford, said a total ban is a good idea. He said there is not enough information on the health risks associated with any outdoor wood-burning furnace.
An outdoor wood-burning furnace is an accessory structure or appliance located outside of a living space designed to transfer or provide heat by burning wood or solid waste to heat spaces other than where the structure or appliance is located, such as a home. It also applies to heating any other structure or appliances on the premises, heating swimming pools, hot tubs or Jacuzzi water.
The proposed town ordinance and state bill stated that an outdoor wood-burning furnace does not include a fire pit, wood-fired barbecue or chiminea.
The ordinance and bill included a fine of up to $250 per day when in violation of the ordinance or bill.
Of the 169 towns, 16 in the state have banned outdoor wood-burning furnaces, among them Avon, West Hartford and Granby.
Howard Beach, a zoning compliance officer and planning analyst for the town, told the planning commission during one of its discussions on the topic about some of the issues with outdoor wood-burning furnaces.
Beach, who serves on the state Council of Environmental Quality, said the main problem with these types of furnaces is that it is impossible to control what people burn in them.
In addition, such furnaces burn at a lower temperature so it does not achieve complete combustion. People often fire it up in the morning and leave it for the day. Once it gets to a desired heat, it shuts down and smolders.
Smoke comes out of the stack and drops to the ground (especially on humid days) and can spread for thousands of feet at ground level. It has been found that sub-micron (the most dangerous type of particulate matter) is dramatically in excess of the Environmental Protection Agency’s allowances for particulate matter in areas up to 500 to 800 feet away from the stack. Also, levels inside homes are well in excess of EPA standards.