The Inadequate Opacity Test for Smoke complaints / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

7 hrs  April 21, 2016  Wendy Harris

What I am always asked when I phone in a smoke complaint is the color of the smoke and whether or not I can see through it. How thick is it? This always annoyed me as something not very relevant. I am focused on what I am smelling and how it is making me feel. Now I know why I feel that way. Apparently, Whatcom County is still relying on an inadequate opacity test as a means of determining how bad the smoke is, and therefore, my rights to have it put out.

*Regulating or even addressing opacity is extremely difficult and very subjective.

*Who determines if the opacity rate exceeds 20 per cent? And does that standard relate to one fire at a time? Or collective opacity when smoke fans out and infiltrates the area for miles around? When several fires are burning at once, to say nothing of many, the pollution goes up exponentially.

*Who goes out to check the standard if there is a complaint call. Does anyone check the standard unless someone complains? How can they determine which house the problem is coming from. It is coming from many, most of the time. And maybe it’s dark out, and you can’t see the smoke.

*Wood smoke mixes with other air pollutants and the combination can result in even more devastating and unpredictable health effects: such as the London Smog Incident of 1956” or 1957, when coal and wood smoke combined with other particulates in the air that resulted in the death of over 4000 people! Since that time, wood and coal burning have been banned in London, and other larger cities in England.

*It is misguided to allow burning to the super high point where a burning ban has to be mandated to get dangerous particulates to go down. Why not ban burning so that the particle pollution doesn’t go so high in the first place?

Read Wendy’s post in the Whatcom Hawk Facebook group here.

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