July 2, 2001
Judge for yourself
Do government agencies spout scary "facts" in order to justify their jobs and agency budgets or what? Recent Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) letters indicate state law and "our region-wide air pollution" dictate Hollywood Hill's rural-area burn ban. Judge for yourself who's misleading whom.
1. Adopted state law (RCW 70.94.743(1)(a)) says that all outdoor burning shall not be allowed where air quality standards "are exceeded for pollutants emitted by outdoor burning."
2. Ecology's implementation rules changed the legislature's "are" to "were", resulting in former "nonattainment areas" being subjected to burn bans.
3. Areas west of Avondale and Paradise Lake roads, including Hollywood Hill, were designated in 1991 as "nonattainment" based on State Department of Transportation maps of county urban areas whose auto traffic contributed to carbon monoxide emissions testing in Bellevue, Seattle and Everett.
4. In 1996 the "nonattainment" designation was lifted. Since that time all areas of King County meet or surpass all federal air quality standards.
5. In 1991, for the entire state, outdoor burning, including field crop burning, accounted for 12 percent of air pollution. In 1999, when Hollywood Hill was still allowed limited outdoor burning, it had slipped to 5 percent. By contrast, in Seattle in the summer, power boats account for 15 percent of air pollution.
6. A King County Solid Waste Division report states that "self-haulers" are discouraged due to overtrafficked transfer station and soon-to-be-full Cedar Hills dump site. Chip piles left onsite are subject to spontaneous combustion. A Solid Waste spokesman indicated a preference for limited spring/fall outdoor burning for rural acreage debris, according to established rules.
Since all air quality standards are being met countywide, and since state-allowed outdoor burning was never the carbon monoxide culprit upon the 1991-1996 automobile traffic nonattainment designation and burn ban was based, and since both self-haulers and commercial haulers do contribute to traffic congestion and vehicle emissions of carbon monoxide, and since rural areas are required to eradicate noxious weeds that include blackberries and Scotch broom, Hollywood Hill and other rural areas should be allowed to continue their limited outdoor burning. (Those who attempt to burn wet, smoldering vegetation are breaking the law.)
One more thought. If particulates are a significant threat to human health, why doesn't the PSCAA conduct a campaign against "planned" forest burns, which not only emit tons of particulates but also destroy wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Maxine Keesling. Woodinville