State's new wood-fired boiler regulations limit emissions
State regulations put in effect last week set new standards limiting the amount of pollution emitted by outdoor wood-fired boilers (OWBs).
As of December 26, only heater models that meet the strictest emission standards, as listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be allowed for sale and installation in Massachusetts, according to a press release from the state's Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Currently, there is no federal emissions standard for OWBs, and there are only a few states that restrict particulate emissions from them.
Secretary Ian Bowles of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) said the new regulations foster the reduction of greenhouse gases and encourage the use of renewable energy sources, while protecting citizens' health.
The regulations unveiled on December 26 by MassDEP and the EEA also establish requirements to minimize the effects of newly installed OWBs on neighbors. Those include setbacks from property boundaries, minimum heights for smoke stacks, limits on burning outside the heating season (Oct. 1-May 15) for units close to neighboring houses, and a prohibition on burning anything except clean, seasoned wood.
An OWB, also known as a hydronic heater, is usually located apart from a house in a small, insulated shed with a smoke stack. The boiler is used to heat water that is carried through underground pipes to supply heat and hot water to buildings, greenhouses, and swimming pools. Sometimes OWBs can produce heavy smoke, which may expose people to health risks if the unit's smoke stack releases it close to the ground, according to MassDEP.
OWBs owned and operated by two residents in Vineyard Haven were the subject of controversy in 2006, leading Tisbury's board of health (BOH) to pass a moratorium on them for one year. In August 2007 the BOH adopted OWB regulations approved by MassDEP, which included a setback requirement of 900 feet from neighboring houses, effectively banning the operation of the two Vineyard Haven units.
The new state regulations set different setbacks for new units, depending on whether an OWB is residential- or commercial-sized. The new regulations do not require that OWBs installed or sold for installation before December 26 meet the emission standard.
Tisbury assistant health agent Maura Valley said yesterday that the board of health will likely review the new state regulations soon, to see how they compare with Tisbury's. "We can have regulations that are more stringent than state regulations, but not less," she said.
The regulations, a fact sheet summarizing their requirements, and a listing of the acceptable OWB units are available at mass.gov/dep/air/laws/regulati.htm.