Town and state Department of Environmental Quality officials recently met with Lake County’s Board of Commissioners to discuss a potential expansion of the County’s ordinance governing open burning practices.
Town of Lakeview Mgr. Ray Simms and Mayor Mike Patrick attended the meeting, along with several DEQ air quality officials. At present, the County’s Ord. No. 30, which prohibits the burning of waste and governing open burning practices and enacted in 1995, encompasses territory within the Town of Lakeview and the urban growth boundary.
In light of ongoing efforts to improve local air quality, a request was submitted to expand its coverage area to include the Goose Lake valley in its entirety.
Simms said that mere line drawings on maps doesn’t address smoke sources or travel patterns, which originate in multiple parts of the local region. At present, he said, the Town of Lakeview bans outdoor burning within the town limits between late November and February, a period known to be prone to stagnant air conditions.
Simms said that expanding the local air quality area is among the goals of the PM Advance Committee, a group developing strategies to improve local air quality.
The group is working to prevent the Town of Lakeview from falling into a state of formal non-attainment designation by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We tried to make it more easily managed for those that have to manage the program,” Simms said.
Simms noted that the first priority in addressing the air quality issue is the potential health issues that coincide with poor air quality. Long-term impacts also include those of an economic nature due to the potential for increased restrictions on local industry.
Commissioner Brad Winters expressed concern over the expansiveness of the proposal and a lack of hard data to support such an action.
Commissioner Ken Kestner said that the intent is to expand the scope in asking residents to not burn on non-optimal air quality days.
DEQ Air Quality Eastern representative Larry Calkins said that while air conditions may appear fine, concentration of open burns can make it into the town area, even if unquantifiable.
Simms said there’s a public perception that others engaging in burns outside the town limits do impact the local air quality. Mayor Patrick noted the emphasis is not on a burning ban, but effective management of burning activities for improving the air quality.
“We’re doing this for the health of our community,” the mayor said, “and we don’t want to lose sight of that.”
Most discussion during the meeting focused around how to coordinate enforcement in such a broad area.