Despite the popularity and appeal of summer bonfires, too much wood smoke can cause problems, according to Allegheny County Health Department. The smoke can contain toxins, act as an asthma trigger and prevent neighbors from opening windows to receive cool breezes.
That’s why the ACHD’s Air Quality Program offered rewards for older, uncertified wood furnaces and wood-fired boilers.
On May 17th, 62 woodstoves were collected in North Park, loaded into trucks, and recycled by Tube City IMS.
For stoves, owners select a $200 gift card to K-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Get Go, or Giant Eagle. For wood-fired boilers, the reward is increased to $500.
According to Alaina Conner, the Air Quality Program Pollution Prevention and Outreach Coordinator, the bounty program replaced a more complicated EPA initiative that began in 2005.
“That involved going into people’s homes and removing the old stoves and helping them find a cleaner model. It was pretty involved and a little bit complicated to manage,” said Conner.
Conner heard about a simpler bounty program that was being used effectively in Washington State, in which people were offered rewards for bringing stoves out of their homes and to a collection site.
She decided to try a similar program in Allegheny County last September, and had a “huge success.” Fifty-nine woodstoves and one wood-fired boiler were collected. This led to the May collection, and if interest is expressed, a possible upcoming third collection.
It’s very difficult to know how many uncertified stoves and boilers remain in the county.
“There’s some census data about homes in Allegheny County that use wood as their primary heat source, but that doesn’t count homes that have a wood stove in their basement for recreation or for occasional heating or even one that isn’t in use but could be resold or fixed up and put into use at any time,” explained Conner.
Conner says the program accepts any uncertified stove or boiler, whether or not it is in use or even functional. An uncertified stove is any made before the 1990s or without an EPA plaque stating its approval.
“Our idea is that even if someone has a wood stove in their garage, it could easily be put up on Craigslist, it could be sold to someone, it could be given to a relative,” said Conner. “We want to get these completely out of use in Allegheny County. So if we take them, we know that no one else is going to be using them down the street in a few weeks, no one’s going to fix them up, it’s completely eliminated.”
The event was paid for by a $75,000 grant from the Allegheny County Clean Air Fund, generated by air quality fines and fees paid by local industries.
Those interested in exchanging stoves or boilers can visit the ACHD website.