Where there’s smoke…

TOUGH fines will be imposed on Armidale’s air polluters next month in an effort to reduce dangerous smoke emissions that are putting the health of city residents at risk.

Armidale Dumaresq Council senior health surveyor, Norm Butt said from the beginning of July householders operating solid fuel wood heaters “in an environmentally unsatisfactory manner” would be issued with a prevention notice under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, and accompanied by $320 penalty.

Failure to comply with that prevention notice would attract an infringement penalty of $750, with higher penalties applying to those who continue to break the law.

For those unsure of the regulations, a booklet (Guidelines for the Operation of Wood Heaters) compiled by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the council, is available Mr Butt said.

“We know the potential health risks to young children, older people and those with asthma and respiratory weakness from wood smoke pollution is considerable,” he said.

The council has undertaken an extensive education campaign over a long period, and will continue to provide the service, but now is the time to ask “is Armidale really serious about wood smoke pollution?”

Mr Butt said air pollution levels this winter had already reached the very high point several times, and despite warnings, many people continued to use damp wood, chemically treated wood or allowed their combustion heaters to smoulder.

The particulate discharged from chimneys in this type of smoke may be carcinogenic and become trapped in the city basin.

The smoke haze hangs over the valley between North and South Hill between approximately 5pm and 9am on many winter nights, entering residential premises where people sleep, and settling on roofs of dwellings where rain water is caught for consumption purposes.

The remaining particulate is dissipated, generally to the east with air current.

Doctors have reported significant increases in visits from people suffering respiratory illnesses after a night of high wood pollution,” Mr Butt explained.