Outdoor Wood Boiler Advisory
Recently, Sussex County has seen an increasing trend in the installation of outdoor wood boiler units in residential areas, likely due to the rising cost of heating fuel. An outdoor wood boiler is a wood-fired water heater that is located outside of a dwelling. The fires in the large fire boxes heat water that is circulated through underground pipes into a building or home. The energy may be used to heat homes, domestic hot water, greenhouses, swimming pools, and more. The units produce dense smoke because they have short stacks that disperse smoke poorly. Since these units are intended for use year around, they may be continually emitting smoke. The smoke has created a number of complaints from surrounding residents who consider this to be a nuisance. In fact, this problem has become large enough that a compliance advisory warning has been issued by the State of New Jersey.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. The biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles (also called particulate matter or PM). These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis.
Short-term exposures to fine particles can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. Long-term exposures can also aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases, has been associated with reduced lung function and lung cancer, and in some cases, resulted in premature death for those with chronic illnesses.
The Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services is responsible for investigating environmental and public health regulations within the County. The County has provided informational packets to each municipality to alert residents of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's position on these units. Residents should be informed that they will be in violation of the Air Pollution Control Regulations if their outdoor wood boiler is observed emitting smoke for more than 3 minutes. Penalties associated with the new regulations start at $300 for a first offense, but could quickly add up, resulting in thousands of dollars in fines.
County residents should seek a local permit to install an outdoor wood boiler and can contact Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services at, 973-579-0370.
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