Standards raised for wood burning appliances; will affect Cowichan

The province will soon be enacting stricter regulations on wood burning appliances.

The province will soon be enacting stricter regulations on wood burning appliances.

The appliances, including wood stoves and boilers, sold in B.C. will have to meet the stricter emissions standards that were recently adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to a government press release, this will result in an immediate 40 per cent reduction in maximum emissions for new wood stoves.

Under existing regulations, several wood-heating devices are exempt from meeting emission standards and the new regulations will ensure all newly bought appliances are subject to the same standards.

Outdoor wood boilers, for example, which emit large quantities of smoke will not only have to meet the new standards, they will also have to be installed in a manner that minimizes risks to neighbours and the community.

New outdoor boilers will be subject to a specific setback from property lines which will limit installation of these high-polluting appliances to large lots in rural areas.

Additionally, a sunset date has been established for high-emitting outdoor boilers that will see them banned in 10 years, resulting in a reduction in pollution for rural communities and their residents.

Wood and pellet stoves currently in use in B.C. are not covered under the ministry’s new regulations, but local jurisdictions have the authority to put their own regulations on them.

The Ministry of Environment’s statement said the intent of the new and stricter rules is to improve air quality in communities in B.C., like the Cowichan Valley, where there are higher levels of particulate matter due to residential wood burning.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District released an extensive airshed protective strategy last year, noting that hospital admissions for children with respiratory diseases were on average 70 per cent higher in the Valley than the rest of B.C. between 1998 and 2012.

The report also found asthma rates were 14 per cent higher and chronic respiratory illness in people over 45 was 50 per cent higher in the Valley.

The geography of the Valley, ringed by mountains, means bad air is often held at ground level at certain times of the year, the report stated.

Earle Plain, an air quality meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment, said the province’s current regulations on wood-burning appliances were established in the 1990s and the government feels enough time has passed, and the technology is now there, to upgrade the standards.

“Uncertified appliances produce between 50 and 60 grams of fine particulate matter an hour, while it has dropped to 7.5 grams an hour with the current standards and it will be 4.5 grams with the new regulations,” he said.

‘That’s quite a difference and a real benefit to air quality. We know a lot of people have been burning without any regulations for a long time, but we need a cultural shift to deal with the health consequences. Of course that also requires that good alternatives are in place as well as good outreach programs to explain the benefits to the people.”