Woodstoves and boilers might have helped keep homes warm over the winter, but they also could have harmed the environment.
That’s why for the second year, the Allegheny County Health Department is collecting old woodstoves and outdoor wood-fired boilers that do not meet the current national emission standards.
“We’re looking for folks to bring them in and they will receive gift cards from a variety of different stores,” Karen Hacker, Allegheny County Health Department Director, said. “We really would like to get these types of woodstoves out of the environment as they do cause pollution and irritants in the air.”
The department is offering a $200 gift card for up to 200 uncertified woodstoves and $500 gift card for up to five non-Phase II outdoor wood-fired boilers. The gift cards are for Home Depot, Lowes, Kmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GetGo and Giant Eagle.
The county collected 59 woodstoves and one outdoor wood-fired boiler last year, and the program is being offered again through a $75,000 grant from the County Clean Air Fund.
According to Hacker, the programs were created in response to an increasing number of complaints about wood-burning emissions.
She said the county hopes to reduce the amount of smoke and fine particulate pollution produced by the wood-burning equipment.
“I think people often think of wood stoves as cozy and nice and they don’t usually think of them as polluters,” Hacker said. “But actually they can add to pollution, particularly particulate matter, and for folks who are vulnerable, they have asthma or other lung kinds of problems, it can be very irritating.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the particulate matter has been linked to symptoms ranging from irritation of the airways to aggravated asthma and chronic bronchitis to nonfatal heart attacks and cancer.
In March, the Health Department announced that each air-monitoring site for fine particulate pollution met all federal standards in 2013 - a first for the county.
Hacker said they are proud of efforts to reduce pollution in Allegheny County, but they know that there’s still work to be done.
She said the boilers and woodstoves will be disposed of properly.
“They will be destroyed and whatever can be recycled will be recycled,” Hacker said. “The stoves and boilers actually are processed by Tube City IMS and its recycling center in West Mifflin,” Hacker said.
The woodstoves and boilers can be turned in May 17th from 1 to 4 p.m. at the swimming pool parking lot on South Ridge Drive in North Park, but you must register in advance by calling 412-578-8106 or visiting the county’s website.