Tisbury shuts down outdoor wood-burning boilers
After several meetings and public hearings, the Tisbury Board of Health (BOH) passed a moratorium Tuesday on the use of outdoor wood-burning boilers (OWBs) in the town of Tisbury for one year, effective immediately.
During the moratorium period, the board will continue to review the health effects of the smoke and emissions from the furnaces to determine whether the moratorium should be extended, modified, or terminated.
An OWB as defined in the moratorium is a wood-fired boiler surrounded by a water jacket or cover, with a smoke vent or stack. The boiler heats water which is carried by pipes to provide heat and/or hot water to a building or structure.
The BOH tackled the issue in response to complaints from two Vineyard Haven residents, Larry Gomez and Henry Stephenson, about smoke and emissions from two OWBs operating in their neighborhoods.
Emissions from wood burners like this one have led to a moratorium. Photo by Ezra Blair
Mr. Gomez, owner of Greenwood House Bed and Breakfast, lives two doors down from Peter Goodale, who operates an OWB at his home on the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Franklin Street. Mr. Stephenson lives on Midland Avenue next door to an OWB operated by Jeff Baker.
The two men were referred to the BOH after lodging complaints with Tisbury's fire chief, building and zoning inspector, and selectmen. In the absence of State building or fire codes, EPA standards or a town ordinance governing OWBs, Mr. Gomez and Mr. Stephenson were advised to consult the board of health.
After researching OWBs, Tisbury Health Inspector Tom Pachico told the BOH commissioners that Massachusetts is planning to set manufacturing standards for the boilers but is leaving local regulations up to the towns. Although the BOH has drafted proposed regulations, approving the moratorium first allows time for further review.
In a phone call Wednesday, Mr. Goodale, who uses his OWB as his sole source of heat and hot water, said he asked the board whether he could continue to use it if he came up with improvements to lessen its emissions to the equivalent for a wood-burning stove approved by the EPA. The board told him there are no levels of emissions acceptable for his type of furnace.
After approving the moratorium, the board said the OWBs must be shut down immediately. However, they agreed to Mr. Goodale's request to wait until Wednesday morning, since he would be forced to find an alternate heating source quickly.
"The town has required that I contribute to global warming," Mr. Goodale said. "I can't burn wood and I have to burn oil - that's what the town has mandated me to do."
He questioned how the board could enforce the moratorium before its approval by the State.
"Under state law Section 31-C, the board of health is supposed to submit proposed regulations to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for approval," Mr. Goodale said.
Following the hearing, Mr. Gomez said he was glad the issue is over for a while. "I think the neighborhood is appreciative of it - I have no hard feelings towards Peter at all and have told him that," he said.