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Grants available to replace wood-burning heating devices 

Money will be available starting Friday morning for roughly 1,500 Bay Area homeowners and landlords to help them upgrade their wood-burning heating devices with cleaner ones to reduce winter air pollution, officials with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said today.
The program will open at 10 a.m. at and (415) 749-5195.
Homeowners and landlords can apply online or call the phone number to give information to someone who will fill out the online application for the person, spokesman Tom Flannigan said.
The money is available on a first-come, first-served basis, air district officials said.Landlords and homeowners can install an electric heat pump or natural gas or propane stove or insert, which looks like a gas stove but is installed inside a fireplace.
“This program is really about removing wood burning devices from our region,” Flannigan said.The cleaner devices are designed to be the home’s chief heating source.
Read more at: Grants available to replace wood-burning heating devices |

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Wood fireplaces and stoves banned in new buildings

In its continuing effort to make breathing easier, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is again clamping down on wood fireplaces and stoves, banning them in all new buildings and requiring more efficient, clean-burning devices where wood fuel is the only source of heat.

The new regulations, approved this week, build on existing rules in an ongoing endeavor to wean residents inside the nine-county air district off polluting wood fires, whether used for heat or ambiance.

The aim of the regulations, first approved in 2008, is to limit emissions of the fine particles in smoke produced by combustion of wood and other solid fuels and wood products, such as pellets. This particulate matter can find its way into a person’s lungs and bloodstream and is linked to greater risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma, respiratory distress and other lung conditions, including cancer, according to the American Lung Association.

“It has a myriad of health impacts, like cigarette smoke,” air district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said.

And it’s the No. 1 source of air pollution during the winter months, the air district said.

“It’s nasty,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a member of the air district board of directors, which unanimously approved the rule amendments Wednesday. “And it’s a lot more nasty than most people realize.”

An estimated 1.4 million fireplaces and uncertified fireplaces in the Bay Area produce about a third of the particulate matter in the air in the winter, the air district said.

The Bay Area air district takes in most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol. It also includes unincorporated parts of Sonoma County roughly bounded on the west by Occidental and on the north by Windsor.

Read more at: Wood fireplaces and stoves banned in new buildings | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma County extends rebates for wood stove upgrades 

Sonoma County supervisors this week renewed a program offering some businesses and residents financial rebates for replacing old wood stoves with new, more environmentally friendly appliances.
Home and business owners along the coast, some parts of the Russian River and north of Windsor in the Highway 101 corridor are eligible to apply for rebates — $1,000 to $2,500 — to install new gas stoves, environmentally certified fireplaces and stoves that burn wood or biomass pellets.
The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which is funding the program, has $30,000 this year from grants and air pollution fines levied on people who in the past violated air quality regulations, such as rules that prohibit burning trash.
District officials said they plan to begin accepting applications Oct. 15, and rebates are processed on first-come, first-served basis. Funding could provide roughly 15 to 30 replacements, depending on the type of appliance.
In the past two years of the program, the district has spent $40,000 on 33 stove replacements. The idea is to reduce fine particulates in the air from wood burning.
For more information and to view a map of the district boundaries go here.
Source: Sonoma County extends rebates for wood stove upgrades | The Press Democrat

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Campaign to address wood burning seeks cleaner air along Russian River


“If we can get people to burn properly, it would be a significant reduction in wood smoke.”

Life among the towering redwoods along the Russian River can be idyllic, but not when the temperature drops and folks fire up wood stoves to stay warm.
All too many of those stoves belch smoke that often shrouds the closely packed homes on wooded slopes and in canyons along the river from Forestville to Monte Rio, said Chuck Ramsey, president of the Russian River Alliance, a consortium of community groups.
“It seeps and settles in the redwoods, and it doesn’t dissipate,” said Ramsey, who is spearheading a campaign to address the problem, largely through educating residents on proper wood-burning practices.
Ramsey, a resident of The Terraces, a community of at least 200 homes on a hillside in Monte Rio overlooking the river, regularly breathes his neighbors’ smoke. From his laundry room, he can nearly touch the roof of one house and its chimney is about 20 feet away.“
It’s not like you can just close your doors and windows and keep it out,” he said. Wood-frame homes in The Terraces were built as summer cabins in the early 1900s and are hardly airtight, he said. Monte Rio and Rio Nido are hardest hit by smoke, Ramsey said, but the problem persists along the lower river.
But wood smoke pollution, readily visible on cold, dry, windless days, doesn’t register on the air quality monitor on the roof of the Veterans Memorial Hall in Guerneville, and thus doesn’t sully Sonoma County’s official record as a clean-air haven.
Read more at: Campaign to address wood burning seeks cleaner air | The Press Democrat

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Bay Area fireplace phase-out under new air quality regulations


Wood smoke is the leading cause of wintertime air pollution, contributing 38 percent of fine particular matter, and about 1 million Bay Area residents have respiratory ailments putting them at risk from exposure to particulate pollution, the air district said.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a celebrated slice of Americana, but those cheerful blazes are bound for extinction under proposed Bay Area air quality regulations that would apply to most of Sonoma County’s 185,660 households.
Aimed at reducing the health threat from pollutants produced by burning wood in fireplaces and stoves, the rules would cost property owners hundreds to thousands of dollars to install alternatives — including federally certified wood-burning devices, gas-fueled or electric options — or to remove or wall off fireplaces.
For homeowners, however, the requirements would not apply until their property is sold or transferred.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says that a complete turnover — eliminating about 1.4 million fireplaces and noncertified wood-burning devices — would occur in about 30 years, based on the assumption that 3 percent of Bay Area homes are sold each year.
The district’s proposals have rekindled a debate over wood smoke, with health advocates supporting cutbacks and both the wood stove industry and real estate interests challenging specific regulations.
The air district began issuing winter pollution alerts more than 15 years ago through voluntary burn bans on days when air quality was expected to be poor, said Ralph Borrmann, a district spokesman. The program did not effectively curb particulate levels, leading to the adoption in 2008 of more extensive rules, including mandatory winter burn bans known as Spare the Air alerts, which have cut particulate pollution by 30 percent, Borrmann said.
But wood smoke remains “a significant health issue in the Bay Area,” Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air district, said in a press release. The proposed rule amendments are intended to “ensure that public health is protected” and that the Bay Area meets state and federal air quality standards, he said.
Read more via Bay Area fireplace phase-out could cost Sonoma County | The Press Democrat.

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Air quality & smoke impacts in Sonoma County

Air Pollution Control Officer of the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District
Air quality is measured against standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board for specific pollutants.  When air quality doesn’t meet a standard, the local air district has to develop a plan of regulations that will improve air quality until it does meet the standard.  Air quality regulations vary from district to district because they reflect local air quality needs.
Sonoma County spans two air regions. The southern portion of the County is managed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which includes eight other Counties around the San Francisco Bay. The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District manages the remainder of the county. Most of Sonoma County’s cities are included in the Bay Area District.
Only the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale are in the Northern Sonoma District, which also includes the towns along the lower Russian River and the entire Sonoma Coast.  Anyone interested in more information about the boundary line can view a map of the County showing both air districts at:
The most significant pollutants in Sonoma County are ozone (a component of smog), and particle pollution (which we refer to as particulate matter, or PM).  We know this by measuring pollutants in the air.  The Bay Area District operates a monitoring station on 5th Street in Santa Rosa.  The air quality in the Bay Area does not meet the federal or state standards for ozone or particulate matter.  The Northern Sonoma District operates air monitoring stations in Cloverdale, Healdsburg, and Guerneville.  Air quality in Northern Sonoma meets all of the federal and state standards – along with Lake County, it is the cleanest air in California!
Most people understand that smog is harmful, but many people don’t know what particulate matter is or why we’re concerned about it.  Particles in the air come from a variety sources and have varying chemical make-ups. The size of a particle determines how far past our bodies’ defenses it can penetrate. We are most concerned about particles small enough to penetrate deep into our lungs, specifically known as inhalable and fine particles.
Inhalable particles are generally smaller than 10 microns in diameter (often called PM10) and come mostly from fine dust and combustion. By comparison, the average human hair is about 70 microns in diameter and fine grains of beach sand are about 90 microns. Inhalable particles have been shown to cause or contribute to a long list of adverse health effects, including: increased respiratory symptoms, pneumonia, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; exacerbation of asthma; increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits; increased risk of premature births and infant mortality; and an increase in cancer, cardiovascular, and respiratory deaths, as well as increased total mortality.
Fine particles are a subset of inhalable particles. These are the smaller particles in that group, less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). These particles penetrate so deeply that they get carried throughout the body where they interfere with cellular processes.Fine particles also tend to be more reactive and are responsible for some of the most significant of the health effects. Fine particles come mostly from combustion, including factories, cars, and fireplaces and woodstoves.
Read more via NO SMOKING PLEASE – Air Quality & Smoke Impacts in Northern Sonoma County.