Health officials in Salt Lake County say burning ban prevented 27 tons of pollution since January 1

Posted at 3:22 PM, Feb 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-05 19:26:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY – As the new year began, leaders in Salt Lake County extended the prohibition on burning wood, coal and pellets to include voluntary action days as well as mandatory action days; leaders have experienced some push back but said they are already seeing positive results from the change,  saying 27 tons of pollution has been prevented.

The change in regulation applies to Salt Lake County, and in addition to outdoor fires it prohibits burning coal as well as burning wood or pellets in fireplaces or wood burning stoves on voluntary and mandatory action days. To check the current air quality forecast and whether or not burning is allowed on a given day, visit the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's website and select the forecast for your county.

Royal Delegge, Director of Environmental Health Division for Salt Lake County, said so far most people are cooperating with the change.

“About a month now, we've only received about a half a dozen or so calls from the public relating to the new regulation,” Delegge said.

Officials said they understand that some people may not have heard about the rule change, so they are making efforts to educate people on the ban as well as the exceptions. Those exceptions to the ban exist for people in homes where wood stoves or fireplaces are the only sources of heat and those who live in homes above 7,000 feet in elevation.

Delegge said the crackdown is helping the environment.

“We knew that reducing the days that people are burning solid fuel would take that much particulate matter out of the air, and, again, it's when the inversion occurs, when everything gets trapped in the valley,” Delegge said.

The Department of Environmental Quality reports that since January there have been 13 voluntary no burn days and 23 mandatory no burn days. The Salt Lake County Health Board said that has led to the prevention of 27 tons of pollution in Salt Lake County alone.

Those who violate the bans can be fined up to $300 each day they are not in compliance, though enforcement doesn’t begin until 2016.

The findings come at a time when leaders are considering a similar ban for several northern Utah counties. Officials have been soliciting feedback on that issue. The feedback has been largely negative, and officials said the ban is likely off of the table for now. Officials said they hope to revisit the issue and return with a plan that is more limited in scope, click here for details.