Air, Wood, BBQ: MA Wood-fired boilers

Massachusetts Wood-fired boilers update

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Palmer reverses ban on boilers

October 17, 2007
By LORI STABILE, lstabile@repub.com

PALMER – The Board of Health turned over its earlier vote to ban wood-fired boilers and endorsed regulating the controversial structures last night.

Board member John J. Lukaskiewicz once again proved to be the decisive vote. Last time, his vote resulted in the ban. This time, it resulted in regulations.

Lukaskiewicz said he was for regulations all along, but “crumbled” when it came time to vote at the Aug. 14 meeting.

“I think this was a good compromise,” Lukaskiewicz said about the regulations.

Lukaskiewicz said he changed his mind after considering people who have 20 acres and no neighbors who would be adversely affected by a ban. Board of Health Chairman Paul E. Benard also voted for the regulations. Member Jayne G. Heede, a nurse, wanted a ban and has cited concerns about health effects from boilers.

The regulations state that any existing boiler has until Jan. 1 to come into compliance, and a permit must be obtained from the board. Anyone wishing to install a unit must provide the board with a site plan indicating proposed location and houses within 500 feet.

No permit shall be granted unless the site location of the proposed or existing boiler is owned by the applicant and contains at least four contiguous acres of land. Boilers can be operated Sept. 15 through April 30. No boiler can be within 50 feet of the house it is serving or within 700 feet of any other house. There are also penalties for violations. Wood fuel and seasoned wood only can be used.

The regulations still need to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The health board addressed the issue again because a legal notice was not published advertising the last public hearing. Benard blamed this on “miscommunication between the attorney and the Board of Health.” Town Attorney Charles F. Ksieniewicz took the blame for the error.

Approximately 30 residents turned out. Barbara E. and Walter Gill, of Mason Street, said they have a problem with a boiler 3/10 of a mile away which emits smoke that smells of garbage. Barbara Gill said she was disappointed by the vote.

“We are definitely affected by this. Last time we were all set. If it wasn’t for that (legal issue) the ban would be on,” she said.

Lawyer James P. Rooney, who has had problems with a boiler on Calkins Road, said he would have preferred a ban. “Hopefully people will follow the regulations. It will be difficult for the budget-strapped town to enforce it,” Rooney said.

Christopher L. Scott, of Smith Street, said he was pleased with the decision, as his boiler is his only source of heat. Tracy L. Kroll, of Flynt Street, said she is “thrilled” the board is letting her keep her 2-year-old boiler.

“I’m glad they had a change of heart,” said Kroll, adding that she hopes the board deals with the boilers that some residents were complaining about.

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