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Opponents of Outdoor Furnaces Seeking State Ban

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December 29, 2010

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. - Smoke gets in your eyes...and in your throat and lungs, according to opponents of the shed-like structure known as an outdoor wood furnace. They are already banned in 14 Connecticut towns, but opponents are seeking a statewide ban.

A research organization, called Environment and Human Health, Inc., recently put out a report detailing what it sees as the health impacts, including respiratory problems and exposure to carcinogens. Nancy Alderman is the group's president.

"It is important that local towns do this, in order to protect not only the health of their citizens, but also property values. People who are impacted by these cannot sell their homes."

She says the state ban, proposed by state Sen. Ed Meyer (D-Guilford), would exempt farmers. Opponents of the ban say the problem can be handled with tighter regulations and more careful siting. Alderman counters that current regulations about setbacks from neighbors' property and the height of smokestacks are irrelevant, because the smoke comes out fairly cool and does not dissipate, but stays in a plume for about a half-mile.

"First of all, it doesn't matter how high the stack is, because the plume falls. And, because it goes for half a mile, a 200-foot setback just does not protect neighbors or neighborhoods."

Hamden resident Michael Bergman has used such a furnace for years, and says he has had no complaints from neighbors. To Bergman, it is a reasonable alternative to heating with fossil fuels, and he notes that the technology is constantly evolving.

"To place a ban on something which is changing at a time when alternative energy is a big deal is foolhardy, and unfair."

Alderman says her group took up the issue only after receiving desperate pleas from homeowners around the state who have been affected by smoke from the outdoor furnaces. The report is online at www.ehhi.org/reports/woodsmoke.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT