Increased fireplace use during power outage impacts air quality

January 20, 2012

Jan Bagge (right) and neighbor Flora Lindsay purchase 14 gallons of gas at the East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast Union 76 station for the generators at their Preston homes. By Greg Farrar

NEW — 4:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 2012

The air in Issaquah is thick with woodsmoke Friday as residents light up fireplaces for warmth amid a regional power outage.

The agency responsible for monitoring air quality in the region, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, ranked the air quality in King County as moderate Friday.

The ranking means air quality is acceptable, but for some pollutants a moderate health concern exists. The health concern impacts people sensitive to air pollution — small children, senior citizens and people suffering from chronic health conditions.

The air pollutants can be harmful for people suffering from heart disease, diabetes, asthma and lung diseases. Pollutants pose the most risk to children and older adults.

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King County burn ban ends

January 17, 2012

The King County burn ban in effect last week has been canceled.

On Jan. 14, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency cancelled air quality burn bans that had been in place in King, Snohomish, Kitsap and Pierce counties.

The agency reported weather forecasters were tracking a new weather system that arrived late Jan. 13. Winds from that system were expected to disperse air pollution that had been building up across the Puget Sound area.

The agency had put in place a Stage 1 burn ban barring the burning of any wood expect in Environmental Protection Agency-certified stoves, fireplaces or fireplace inserts.

Check burn ban status at or call 800-595-4341 toll free. The purpose of a burn ban is to reduce the amount of pollution that is creating unhealthy air.

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State offers alternatives to burning leaves and yard waste

November 1, 2011

Fall means abundant fallen leaves and piles of other yard waste.

The state Department of Ecology is urging residents not to give in to the temptation to burn vegetation. In most areas, including Issaquah and rural King County, burning is regulated to protect people from breathing smoke and to prevent fires from spreading.

Smoke from burning leaves, grass, brush and tree needles can aggravate or contribute to asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and lung cancer. If left unattended, yard waste fires can spread out of control, damage property and threaten people.

Most cities and all urban growth areas do not allow residential outdoor burning. The state also bans burning garbage or using burn barrels across Washington.

Residents in rural areas should call local fire agencies before burning. People should also ask the regional Department of Ecology office or local clean air authority — the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in King County — for burn permit requirements.

The agency recommends chipping, home composting or hauling yard waste to a composting facility as alternatives to burning.

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Cedar Grove Composting ordered to pay fine for odors

July 19, 2011

The state ordered Cedar Grove Composting to pay $119,000 in fines July 14 for odor violations at a facility in rural King County near Issaquah and another in Everett.

The fines resulted from 13 violations from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in 2009 and 2010. The composter appealed the violations to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, but the panel denied the appeals.

“It’s about time. We’ve been waiting for someone to hold Cedar Grove accountable for their noxious odors,” Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County founder Mike Davis said in a statement. “We’re tired of Cedar Grove denying any responsibility and blaming everybody else while people all around the region can’t even enjoy their own yards because of the huge stench.”

The commercial composter is near the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill between Issaquah and Renton.

In a 66-page ruling, the Pollution Control Hearings Board said “odors emanating from the facilities have interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of life and property of a large number of surrounding residents.”

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Garbage haulers tout ‘green’ credentials

May 10, 2011

James Connors (left) and Rey Bravo, yard waste and recycle truck drivers, respectively, for Allied Waste, each drive the new compressed natural gas-fueled trucks on their South Cove routes. By Greg Farrar

City seeks eco-conscious company for trash contract

The city is on the hunt for a company to collect garbage and recyclables from Issaquah curbs, and the hauler displaying the “greenest” credentials could receive a boost in the selection process.

Come fall, leaders plan to select a company to handle the smelly task in the years ahead. In the meantime, Allied Waste and Waste Management — the haulers operating in Issaquah — continue to emphasize eco-conscious programs.

Allied Waste rolled out compressed-natural-gas-powered trucks on routes through the Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods in recent months.

In February, the hunter green Waste Management fleet received a clean-air certification after a rigorous audit.

“Sustainability is always on the agenda,” city Resource Conservation Manager David Fujimoto said. “It’s important to the city and to the waste-management contracts.”

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Guest Column

April 20, 2011

Innovative, ambitious ‘green’ programs earn their keep in Issaquah

Just a few years ago, many people considered sustainability a fad. The prediction was that cities passionate about recycling and green living would abandon sustainability when hard-pressed to stretch city dollars and services.

That didn’t happen. In fact, communities like Issaquah stand tall on Earth Day because of innovative and ambitious sustainability programs that are actually reducing costs. Here’s how:

Waste reduction for Issaquah businesses: The city of Issaquah and Waste Management are partners in innovative outreach to boost commercial recycling. As a result, Issaquah has sent less and less garbage to the landfill every year since 2005.

The city’s new food packaging ordinance is a prime example of an aggressive effort that’s paying off. It requires restaurants and food service-related businesses to compost and to use “to-go” packaging that is either recyclable or compostable. Since October, 90 local businesses have signed up for food waste collection, diverting 600 tons of food waste from the landfill. That’s roughly 60 Waste Management trucks full of food waste.

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Puget Sound Clean Air Agency lifts King County burn ban

January 4, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. Jan. 4, 2011

Light up the fireplace to chase away the chill — the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency lifts the King County burn ban at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency meteorologists said air quality should improve as a weather system pushes into the region Tuesday.

The agency issued the Stage 1 burn ban Monday due to increasing air pollution and forecasted stagnant weather conditions.

Such a ban prohibits burning in fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves or inserts, unless residents lack another adequate source of heat. No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace — certified or not — beyond a 20-minute start-up period, and even if the fireplace or wood stove is the only adequate source of heat.

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Fireplace use is prohibited during King County burn ban

January 3, 2011

NEW — 9:30 a.m. Jan. 3, 2011

Forget about lighting up the fireplace to fight the January chill.

King County is under a Stage 1 burn ban due to increasing air pollution and forecasted stagnant weather conditions.

The ban prohibits burning in fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves or inserts, unless residents lack another adequate source of heat. No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace — certified or not — beyond a 20-minute start-up period, and even if the fireplace or wood stove is the only adequate source of heat.

Residents should instead rely on a cleaner source of heat, such as a furnace or electric baseboard heater, until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency lifts the ban.

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State lifts summer burn ban more than a week early

September 21, 2010

UPDATED — 11 a.m. Sept. 21, 2010

The state Department of Natural Resources has lifted the statewide burn ban on Tiger Mountain and other public lands earlier than expected.

The agency attributed heavy rainfall throughout the state for easing the summer fire danger. In addition, the September outlook from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center calls for cooler-than-normal temperatures and higher-than-normal precipitation.

The conditions allowed the ban to be removed before Sept. 30. Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark enacted the ban in July to reduce the number of wildfires caused by recreational fires on state lands.

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King County picks plan to keep landfill open for another decade

August 31, 2010

Cedar Hills Regional Landfill could remain open until the mid-2020s under a proposed plan, even as other factors — such as increased recycling and a feeble economy — stretch the number of years the landfill could operate.

The proposal to increase capacity at the giant landfill has inched ahead, after King County Solid Waste Division leaders spent 16 months addressing concerns about the project as part of a required environmental analysis.

Nearby homeowners raised concerns about odors, noise, storm water runoff, ground water contamination and traffic, plus potential impacts on flora and fauna.

Solid Waste Division leaders released the detailed analysis, or environmental impact statement, of the expansion proposals in late July.

The landfill encompasses 920 acres in unincorporated King County between Issaquah and Maple Valley.

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