Spare the air
Public health officials at Washington County, together with the cities of Hillsboro and Cornelius are reminding residents about wood smoke ordinances that may affect them. Exposure to wood smoke can be dangerous, especially for children, older adults and anyone with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
From Nov. 1 through March 1, Washington County Public Health monitors the daily air quality for levels of PM2.5 — a type of fine air pollution caused in large part by wood smoke.
A red day alert means that air quality is unhealthy and that no fireplace or wood stove use is allowed, unless burning wood is a person's only source of heat or if a person needs to burn wood for financial reasons. A yellow day means air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and people are asked to voluntarily not burn wood. A green day indicates that air quality is good.
Since the ordinance was passed in 2015, there have been zero red day alerts.
"The color-coded system applies to residents of unincorporated Washington County, Hillsboro and Cornelius," Senior Program Coordinator Kathleen Johnson said. "We hope for the sake of the most vulnerable among us that all Washington County residents will avoid burning wood if a red day alert is issued."
Residents are encouraged to sign up to receive air quality and wood-burning alerts for red days at publicalerts.org. More information and the daily air quality status can be found by calling 503-846-8744 or visiting WashingtonCountyAir.com.
As part of its efforts to improve air quality, in August 2016, Washington County's Office of Community Development and the Department of Health and Human Services launched a wood stove exchange program to reduce harmful pollution from wood smoke. Qualifying residents receive a rebate of $1,500 to $3,500 when they replace their old or uncertified wood stove with a cleaner heating device. Some households qualify for a free replacement, depending on their income.
"Our goal for the first year was to replace 50 wood stoves," Housing Rehabilitation Specialist Tim Davis said. "We were thrilled to complete 134 projects."
The five-year goal is to replace 700 old wood stoves.
To be eligible, households must rely on an old or uncertified wood stove or wood stove insert as an essential heat source. Total household income determines the amount of the rebate and if the applicant qualifies for a free replacement.
Program participants can replace old wood stoves with electric ductless heat pumps, natural gas stoves, pellet stoves or gas furnaces. Those who qualify for a free replacement also may opt for a new Environmental Protection Agency-certified wood stove, in addition to the other choices.
In the first year, 74 households received new pellet, gas or electric heating devices, while 60 households opted for new wood stoves or wood stove inserts.
Visit WoodStoveExchange.com for applications, eligibility guidelines and details on replacement device options or call 503-846-4425 for more information.