Please protect our local air quality during storm clean-up

Practice safe, legal debris disposal

Our region took a hit from heavy snow and rain this month. With more wind and rain likely through the coming weeks, it is vital that we all work together to make sure our community air quality is protected as we clean up the storm debris.

As residents strive to restore order to their property, the first reaction is often to quickly burn woody debris from fallen trees and wind-tossed limbs. Unfortunately, there are air pollution concerns with that practice. That wet, green wood will smolder rather than burn, creating vast plumes of smoke and ash.

ORCAA asks that homeowners first verify that they are legally allowed to burn yard waste. Under state law, yard waste burning is illegal in cities and Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) throughout Washinton. For those who can legally burn, for now, ORCAA asks that they simply pile their yard debris in a safe location on their property to let the woody material ‘cure’ (i.e., letting the insides of the wood dry out). If immediate disposal is required, residents should use one of the currently available alternative means of disposal. Curbside pick-up services are available in many areas. Chipping and composting services can also be used. But there are also other alternatives to burning. You can find more details on alternatives as well as how to check your local burning requirements and legalities here. Additional information on disposal option can be found by calling your local waste disposal company.

Unrestricted burning of the massive quantity of storm debris could pose an immediate health threat to area residents. Burning wood and other plant material create smoke composed of fine and very fine particles. This small particulate matter (PM) creates significant health risks, especially the very fine particles – smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). These tiny particles are too small to be filtered by the nose and the body’s other natural defense mechanisms, so they may end up being inhaled deep into the lungs. They can remain in that sensitive tissue for months, slowly causing tissue damage and chemical changes within the lungs. That means that exposure to wood smoke may, at the very least, cause breathing problems and can increase – sometimes substantially increase – the severity of existing lung disease, such as asthma.

Residents must also be aware that burning is NOT an option for disposal of damaged household goods or building materials — including any lumber or wood products. Trash burning is illegal at all times throughout the state of Washington due to substantial health-risks caused by burning manufactured goods. Even where outdoor burning is legally allowed, trash it is always illegal to burn anything other than natural vegetation for disposal.


Media Contact

Dan Nelson

Communications/Outreach Manager