Salt Lake City Council to look at wood burning solutions as bad air days continue

Posted at 1:33 PM, Jan 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-20 00:09:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Bad air quality is expected to continue in the Salt Lake Valley for the next several days, and experts say wood burning is a major culprit when it comes to air pollution.

Officials said one wood burning stove emits as much pollution as 3,000 gas furnaces combined, and that statistic is one reason EPA officials are urging people to reduce the use of wood burning stoves in their homes.

Elesha Morris of Salt Lake City said the poor air quality has had an impact on her life.

“I think the air is horrible,” she said. “I actually have an upper respiratory infection, and my doctor the other day told me that's why, it's because of the poor air quality in Salt Lake.”

What's in the air is particulate matter -- it's a complex mixture of fine dust and soot particles. PM 2.5 is the kind of pollution we usually see this time of year, and according to a recent study by the University of Utah a big contributor is wood burning stoves. That is one reason the Salt Lake City Council is considering action. City Council Member Erin Mendenhall spoke about the issue.

“There's a possibility of a wood burning ban in Salt Lake City,” she said. “I think it's a little bit premature for that. For two reasons: We don't have education, public education out there yet, to tell people why wood burning is so impactful to both our personal health and our community’s health and the air shed, and we desperately need that. Secondly, we have provided no mechanism for households whose sole source of heat comes from wood burning to transition to natural gas.”

Mendenhall said she would first support an education campaign designed to make people more aware of the impact wood burning has on the environment. Officials said they plan to take up the issue at their next city council meeting.

Visit the Department of Environmental Quality for more information about air quality throughout the state.