County opposes ban on burning

December 20, 2001 11:00 pm

By SHARON STELLO

Burn barrels and backyard waste burning of everything except vegetation could be off limits in a year and a half.

The state Air Resources Board will consider a ban on most waste burning at its February meeting. If approved, the ban would go into effect July 1, 2003.

Tuolumne County already prohibits burning of plastic, rubber and most household garbage. Yard waste, non-glossy paper and cardboard still may be burned.

The Tuolumne County Air Pollution Control Board, which is also the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously in a special meeting Thursday to send a letter to the state air board and Gov. Gray Davis citing concerns about the proposed ban.

Tuolumne County Supervisor Mark Thornton said the board agrees with the end goal of the proposed ban, but objects to the process being used to consider the ban.

A public hearing on the proposed ban will take place Jan. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Tuolumne County Sheriffs Posse building, 19130 Rawhide Road, Jamestown.

Gennet Paauwe, spokeswoman for the state air board, said the ban proposal is based on health concerns and rising populations in rural areas where backyard burning typically occurs.

Our No. 1 concern is public health from air pollution, Paauwe said. Its become clear its a hazard to public health.

Statewide, about 800,000 households may burn some form of household waste in burn barrels.

Smoke and ash from these fires contain toxic pollutants that can contaminate air, water, food and soil, where they may stay in the environment for many years, states a fact sheet from the state air board.

Paauwe said research shows that dioxins emitted from waste burning sometimes settle in lakes and streams or in cattle feed. Dioxins can be passed along to people if they eat the affected fish or beef. Dioxins can cause cancer, immune system damage and other health effects.

Paauwe said air pollution control districts may apply for exemptions should the proposed ban be approved.