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GFD Wetdown - GFD - 04/19/2009



  The following letter was received by the Goshen Fire Department from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protectin (MassDEP).  It is being reproduced here in order to provide information on alternative strategies for managing ice storm debris and to explain the reasons why the open burning season ends on Friday, May 1st.


The devastating ice storm that struck southern New England late last year generated huge quantities of vegetative wood wastes and created emergency conditions in much of Central and Western Massachusetts.  While considerable progress was made in December and January to clear roadways and allow for power restoration, many communities may still be facing significant debris management challenges. 


While many communities have looked to open burning as a method for their residents to manage debris problems, this notice serves as a reminder that the legal open burning season ends on Friday, May 1, 2009.  After that date, it will be illegal for open burning to occur, even if a local permit is issued. 




The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and your local fire department limit open burning for public health and safety reasons.  Open burning pollutes the air and can make it difficult for people with respiratory problems to breathe.  When the air is stagnant, open burning can pose smoke and odor nuisances - and health risks - to nearby residents, particularly in densely populated areas.  Open burning can also pose a safety risk when it is not adequately controlled.


Open burning during the ozone season (April 1 through September 30) can exacerbate regional air quality problems.  Massachusetts continues to be out of compliance with the strict health-based air quality standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for ground level ozone.  Ozone, even at very low levels, can exacerbate existing health problems such as asthma.  Ozone is created in the atmosphere when “precursor” compounds that are emitted from sources of air pollution, including open burning, react in the atmosphere.  Opening burning contributes to the precursor compounds that form ozone.  Extensive open burning in the state during the 2009 ozone season, will add to the existing ozone problem we face here in the Commonwealth. 


In addition, opening burning emits significant quantities of particulate matter into the atmosphere.  While Massachusetts is currently in compliance with the national health based particulate standards, the state’s air quality is very close to the limits set for fine particulates.  Statewide, open burning can be a major source of these very small particles, which can initiate and/or exacerbate respiratory and heart problems..  Smoke from open burning can also create serious local problems by exposing residents and neighbors to particles. 

The legal authority to limit open burning can be found in MassDEP’s Air Pollution Control regulations 310CMR 7.07 “Open Burning”. 




MassDEP advises that storm related tree debris be managed as follows:

1.  Recycle as much as possible for production of lumber, wood pellets, wood chips and mulch.


·        Pine trees (if intact) should be limbed and sold to a saw mill.  Limbs should be chipped.

·        Hardwood tree trunks, depending on species, are even more valuable as saw logs than pine.  If intact, limb and sell to a mill.

·        Hardwoods that can’t be sold to a mill should be corded for firewood.

·        Wood that can not be sent to a mill or cut into cordwood should be chipped.  Chipped wood can be sent to wood-fired power plants as a fuel or used as ground cover and erosion control (local contractors should be contacted).

(The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) can provide a list of Massachusetts sawmills and dry kilns.  Visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/stewardship/forestry/utilmark/index.htm or contact Gordon Boyce at 413-253-5634 or email: Gordon.Boyce@state.ma.us for information about sawmills, loggers, wood-fired power plants, wood chip markets, etc.)


2.  Wood that cannot be cut or chipped should be stored in a suitable central location and then chipped when a machine is available.

3.  Communities within the Asian Longhorned Beetle Impact Area should continue to consult with DCR for directions on storm debris management (DCR contact: Jeff Daley, jeff.daley@state.ma.us).

MassDEP views special requests for open burning as a last resort for disposal of tree debris, to be considered only after all other options have been pursued and ruled out.  Please note that, in certain municipalities open burning is prohibited under any circumstances pursuant to the Air Quality Regulations [310CMR 7.07(3)(e)].  These communities are:  Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Malden, Medford, New Bedford, Newton, Somerville, Springfield, Waltham, Watertown, West Springfield, and Worcester.




For advice on developing strategies for managing storm tree debris, communities are encouraged to contact MassDEP’s Regional Offices.


·        Northeast Region:  Tom Natario (telephone: 978-694-3269, email: t.natario@state.ma.us)

·        Southeast Region:  John McLaughlin (telephone: 508-946-2729, email: j.mclaughlin@state.ma.us)

·        Central Region:  Gary Roscoe (telephone: 508-767-2773, email: g.roscoe@state.ma.us)

·        Western Region:  Roberta Baker (telephone: 413-755-2275, email: r.baker@state.ma.us)

(Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009)