Printed letters, March 21, 2013
I woke on a recent, beautiful spring morning, inhaled a cloud of smoke from someone’s backyard fire and decided to speak out about the practice in this valley of open burning.
For five months of the year, we suffer the effects of open burning, and I believe it is time for us to talk about restricting this tradition. If we examine the benefits and the detriments of open burning, we’ll see that the negative aspects of it far outweigh the positive.
The negative aspects of open burning are:
✓ Health: There is no control over what people are actually burning, but a typical burn of backyard waste can release acrolien, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, dioxins and polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbons, none of which are good for anybody to breathe, especially those with compromised respiratory systems. If people are burning all the trash they have collected over the year, the carcinogenic effects could be even worse.
✓ Horticulture: Ash is alkaline, and we are already struggling to grow plants in soils that are naturally very alkaline. The soils in the valley have a typical pH of 7 to 8.5. Most plants like a pH of 5 or less. Adding more alkalinity to our soils makes no horticultural sense.
✓ Economic: Dirty skies from open burning cannot be an attractive feature for those visiting or thinking about moving to our area.
I understand that fruit growers may not have an economical alternative to burning, but for other farmers, plowing crop waste under, as is done in many farming communities, could be a viable alternative to burning. There may also not be at this time an economic alternative to burning ditch banks.
If only these kinds of burning were permitted, however, what a difference this would make to our air quality. All of us living on acreage that is essentially residential non-crop-producing property should be required to haul yard waste to the landfill where it can be turned into something wonderful: compost.
Let only those with spades, aching backs vote on burning
Burning season is upon us again, and those who don’t know they’ve moved into an agricultural valley will be complaining of smoke. Some have said we need to put the continuance of burning season to a vote.
I agree, but I propose it be a qualified vote. Only those who have cleaned a minimum of one-quarter mile of irrigation ditch, using only a spade and their aching back muscles, should be allowed to vote.
Be aware of health dangers during spring burn season
January’s record number of inversion days produced air so thick with pollutants I had to wear a mask on my daily walks.
Now through May 31, it is spring open-burn season in Mesa County. This doesn’t mean residents get to set fire to anything, anytime or anywhere. Regulations include obtaining a permit through the local fire department. The laws forbid burning garbage, household trash, construction materials, leaves and grass trimmings.
The list goes on to include rubber, plastic and other materials that release toxic smoke.
In addition, residents are required to wait two hours after sunrise before burning and put out fires two hours before sunset. Even agricultural burns are “requested” to work within the designated daytime hours.
Much to the credit of our predecessors, Mesa County has an air quality planning committee, a group of stakeholders (aren’t we all?) working under the Health Department to make air quality protection recommendations to local elected officials.
Stakeholders include governmental, industrial, educational, medical and legal sectors of the community, as well as interested citizens.
I am grateful for the regulations in place to help protect the air we breathe. But when I look to the monument and see a thick yellow haze or billowing grey smoke, I realize we are not doing enough.
It is time to step up awareness of the dangers, especially to our children. All of us are inhaling microscopic, toxic particulates that stick to the tissues in our lungs and hearts. I encourage Grand Valley residents to report violations to their fire departments.