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Burn barrels hot topic once again

Almost every spring since 1988 the topic of limiting or even prohibiting the use of burn barrels has been looked at by the city ... once again a proposal to end it all has been offered
City officials will take up the question of whether to change the city's nuisance ordinance tonight, and make it illegal to burn household debris in a burn barrel.
   Burn barrel use within the city limits has long been an issue. In 1988, the city council adopted Ordinance 911 setting out certain restrictions on what could be burned in a barrel. Seven years later, in 1995, Ordinance 1022 was passed, setting standards for burn barrels among other things. Two years later Ordinance 1047 established penalties for violations to the burn barrel ordinance.
   This spring has seen a growing number of complaints about people abusing the use of burn barrels, burning noxious materials. The complaints have been addressed mainly from elderly residents and those with breathing difficulties. Failure to comply to the hours specified for burn barrel use, burning wet garbage and plastics, resulting in heavy, noxious and lingering smoke has precipitated in the increase in the number of complaints.
   Earlier versions of the city's ordinance dealing with burn barrels and open burn piles attempted to restrict what could be burned. During the 1995 discussion, a total ban on burn barrels within the city limits of Prineville was for a time looked at by the council as an option. After taking public testimony on the issue, it was decided to turn it over to the Public Safety Committee.
   The end result was Ord. 1022 with its list of restrictions and definitions. That regulation was adopted and it became necessary for a person to obtain a permit for burning debris, either in open burn piles or in a barrel. In burn barrels, residents with an annual permit could legally burn only during prescribed hours and was limited to dry paper, dry limbs and dry wood products, only.
   Permits for burning debris piles was limited to include limbs, dry leaves, shrubs and household wood products, only. Other limitations to the ordinance stipulated that a person could not burn any paper products in burning piles. A pile could not exceed four feet in height and six feet in diameter.
   One of the problems faced by the city with these limitations and restrictions was enforcement. Citations could be issued and fines could be imposed under the ordinances, but apparently that rarely happened. Without teeth, fewer and fewer people followed the rules.
   Now, the city believes that while there are a modest number of burn barrel abusers, one such can cause complaints and impact several square blocks in area. Daily violations of burning of noxious materials is, one city official pointed out, quite obvious within the city.
   The city's latest proposal would be to prohibit burning materials in burn barrels. Burning any debris without a permit issued by the rural fire protection district. Debris will be limited to grass, weeds, branches, leaves and paper.
   The state Department of Environmental Quality, as in the past, strongly supports the proposed burn barrel ban. In a letter to the city, a DEQ air quality specialist pointed out the types of emissions emitted from a typical burn barrel. Burning in a burn barrel in some cases actually produces higher magnitudes of toxins than burning the same material in a municipal waste incinerator.
   "At a minimum," the DEQ specialist Larry Calkins said, "we can clearly say that it is not healthy to breath these emissions and the more exposure to open burning emissions, the more the risk to an individual's health."
   Plus, he concluded, burning in a burn barrel often results in the burning of prohibited materials which, in some cases, could be a class one violation of state law and civil penalties could be assessed.