Need Some Help. Neighbor (Environmental Atty) Filed Complaint

rook_ki Posted By rook_ki, Jan 7, 2019 at 1:58 PM

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. rook_ki

    rook_ki
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 2, 2013
    30
    6
    Hi,
    I'm in central MA. New neighbor moved in a few months ago. I have 2 BK Princess inserts installed back in 2013. Never had any complaint before previous neighbor Board of health contacted me saying neighbor complaint of smoke and odor from my burning. 99% of my firewood are red oak. I split and stack them fairly small 1-2" diameter because I do not have the space to store 2 years. Their usually seasoned only 1 year. Please help me with a few questions.

    1. How much smoke should I see during initial burn?
    2. How much smoke should I see once stove is hot enough to engage the combustor?
    3. Talking to a couple of local wood dealers, they're say it's not possible to get seasoned firewood under 20% moisture content because seasoned firewood will reabsorb moisture and rain water. They said I would have to purchase kiln dried firewood to achieve under 20%. Anyone in the northeast can confirm or disprove what they told me?
    4. Are there anyone local on this forum who would be willing to show me their setup and the operation of their stove?
    5. Anyone local who has firewood under 20% would be kind enough to sell me 1/2 or a cord?

    Thank you.
     
    hickoryhoarder likes this.
  2. peakbagger

    peakbagger
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Jul 11, 2008
    4,494
    1,331
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    IMHO I think the real question is does he have any basis for the lawsuit? Unless there is a local or state rule or regulation that you have to meet to burn wood then what it looks to me is this is a nuisance lawsuit. Have you asked the board of health what standards they would apply to determine if what is occurring is a nuisance?. In some cases the local officials don't even know or care, they just parrot the complaint from the person complaining to the person who is perceived to be in the wrong.

    The problem is unless there is hard standard to be met then your neighbor can effectively veto any wood burning. Of course he can work for free while you having to defend yourself is going to require you to get an attorney. It can get ugly fast and far exceed what you save by burning wood which I expect is the intent of the neighbor.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  3. paulnlee

    paulnlee
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Dec 2, 2018
    140
    64
    Loc:
    Flemington, NJ
    Proof, enough of this you're guilty BS, let him prove his complaint
     
    Lone_Gun and GadDummit like this.
  4. Woody5506

    Woody5506
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Feb 14, 2017
    676
    344
    Loc:
    Rochester NY
    You're likely burning pretty underseasoned oak if it's only 1 year split. Most would recommend 3 years for oak. If you are actually smoking them out with that then I will say it can be pretty annoying. Last year my wife put some way under seasoned locust in the stove while I was out splitting and the smoke from it really was annoying and smelled pretty awful. Not the pleasant kind of wood smoke smell, more like the choke you out type of smell thats from burning wet wood.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    Gwynthie and TreePointer like this.
  5. paulnlee

    paulnlee
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Dec 2, 2018
    140
    64
    Loc:
    Flemington, NJ
    Who the hell doesn't like the smell of burning wood as long as it's not your house
     
  6. Rob711

    Rob711
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Oct 19, 2017
    127
    69
    Loc:
    Long Island, ny
    Start burning tires in your backyard. Then the stove won’t seem so bad
     
  7. jerrieric

    jerrieric
    Burning Hunk 2.
    NULL
    

    Jul 7, 2008
    241
    48
    Loc:
    Windham Me
    MA. Enough said, just kidding but if the smoke is really bad I don't think I'd like smelling it either.
     
    GadDummit likes this.
  8. Kevin Weis

    Kevin Weis
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 3, 2018
    687
    217
    Loc:
    Union Bridge, Md
    I was wondering when this was going to surface here. I'm assuming he is generally downwind of you. I have a neighbor that just moved in to the house downwind of me and I see my smoke half the time moves toward and or around his house. I've been here 35 years. So far no complaints. He likes his bonfires outside so maybe not caring about smoke around the house occasionally. As was said would have to be a nuisance complaint, not a code complaint as long as its an approved stove I'm assuming.
     
  9. iceman2424

    iceman2424
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 13, 2016
    69
    35
    Loc:
    Michigan
    I wonder if this neighbor actually considered, you know, talking with you, before filing lawsuits.

    Maybe a compromise could have been reached.

    This neighbor represents a lot of what's wrong with society, in my opinion.

    Regarding the 20% deal - I'm not in the NW, but it was HUMID in SE Michigan last summer, and I got out of it with 2 year seasoned top covered sugar maple at around 18%.
     
  10. Bad LP

    Bad LP
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 28, 2014
    833
    292
    Loc:
    Northern Maine
    I'm writing this with my Mass resident hat on. All my wood burning is well north of "home"

    The BOH is the governing authority. They could run to the EPA for guidance/enforcement but I doubt it would go that way.
    What does it say in the rules and regulations for the town? You would most likely be grandfathered anyway.
    What year were the stoves made?

    If the BOH id not going to do anything about it it will most likely stop there but one never knows.

    So.... Can you change the way you burn your stove? What is your MC? Red oak takes a solid 3 years in good exposure to season well. Maple and birch burn well. Same for ash. None take as long to properly season. Bio bricks could help too.

    A good friend burns wood in the center of a very well to do town. He's in the "Hysterical" District as well. He heats primarily with wood and there are times the smoke rolling out of his center chimney is pretty bad when he first stokes the stove. I'll call him and say I called the FD thinking his house is on fire. We laugh because he retired as the Deputy Fire Chief in town.

    Maybe if you kept a hot fire going with hot reloads the smoke might not be so bad.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    SeanBB likes this.
  11. Zack R

    Zack R
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Sep 27, 2017
    245
    149
    Loc:
    Bend, OR
    If you are burning cleanly (dry wood, hot burns, almost no visible smoke except for startup) there shouldn't be an issue. Whenever I'm outside I take a glance at my chimney to make sure there's no visible smoke.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    Jeffm1, SeanBB and Dug8498 like this.
  12. brenndatomu

    brenndatomu
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Aug 21, 2013
    3,922
    1,426
    Loc:
    NE Ohio
    Does your neighbor know the difference between smoke and steam? You shouldn't have much smoke other than a little at start up, if everything is working right...yeah your wood is probably not dry, but split that small it shouldn't be terrible either...
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  13. rook_ki

    rook_ki
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 2, 2013
    30
    6
    I've never tested the MC of my firewood. I know oak takes a long time to season and that's why I split them very small.

    To be fair, he did talked to me in advanced but he only asked that I stop burning completely. When I said I would not but was open to other suggestion, I agreed not to burn during rain and snow because the smoke and odor seem to hover around the house. A few weeks later, he filed the complaint. From my point of view, he just doesn't want me to burn and no compromise was going to be reached.

    I don't know much about the law whether this is a nuisance or code complaint. The stoves was installed by a professional and permit was pulled and approved.

    Below is an excerpt from an email I received from the board of health:

    Excerpting from the Town of Paxton Zoning Bylaws and MassDEP regulations respective to smoke follows:

    “Section 5.8 Environmental Performance Standards



    Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Bylaw, and use permitted by Right or by Special

    Permit in any district shall not be conducted in a manner as to emit any dangerous, noxious, injurious, or

    otherwise objectionable …, smoke, … odor or other form of environmental pollution conditions or element in an amount as to adversely affect the surrounding environment.

    The following standards shall apply:

    1. Emissions shall be completely and effectively confined within a building, or so regulated as

    to prevent any nuisance, hazard, or other disturbance from being perceptible (without the use of

    instruments) at any lot line of the premises on which the use is located.

    4. No emission of visible dark or offensive smoke shall be permitted.

    9. No emission of odorous gases or odoriferous matter in such quantities as to be offensive

    shall be permitted.

    Any process, which may involve the creation and/or emission of any odors, shall be provided with a

    secondary safeguard system”.


    In addition to the Town Of Paxton Zoning Bylaws is the MassDEP- Air Pollution Control Regulation, 310 CMR 7.00. defines wood stoves are considered a fuel utilization facility:


    FUEL UTILIZATION FACILITY means any furnace(s), fuel burning equipment, boiler(s),

    space heaters or any appurtenance thereto used for the burning of fuels, for the emission of

    products of combustion, or in connection with any process which generates heat and emits

    products of combustion, but does not mean a motor vehicle or an incinerator; except that for the

    purposes of 310 CMR 7.22, means a single furnace, fuel burning equipment, boiler or space

    heater for the purpose of generating electricity or thermal energy.



    Smoke and odor from wood stoves are considered air contaminates:



    AIR CONTAMINANT means any substance or man-made physical phenomenon in the ambient

    air space and includes, but is not limited to, dust, flyash, gas, fume, mist,odor, smoke, vapor,

    pollen, microorganism, radioactive material, radiation, heat, sound, any combination thereof, or

    any decay or reaction product thereof.



    Air contaminates can cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution:



    AIR POLLUTION means the presence in the ambient air space of one or more air contaminants

    or combinations thereof in such concentrations and of such duration as to:

    (a) cause a nuisance;

    (b) be injurious, or be on the basis of current information, potentially injurious to human

    or animal life, to vegetation, or to property; or

    (c) unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property or the

    conduct of business.



    310 CMR 7.09 is the regulation which addresses smoke and odor from fuel utilization facilities:



    310 CMR 7.09: U Dust, Odor, Construction, and Demolition

    (1) No person having control of any dust or odor generating operations such as, but not limited

    to asphalt batching plants, asphalt roofing materials manufacturing plants, asphalt blowing

    plants, foundries, chemical products manufacturing plants, incinerators,fuel utilization facilities,

    petroleum products manufacturing plants, aggregate manufacturing plants, food preparation or

    processing facilities, wood products plants, dry cleaning establishments, paint and varnish

    manufacturing plants, paper manufacturing plants, leather manufacturing plants, concrete

    batching plants, metal coating and treating plants, land clearing operations, construction work,

    dump operations, agricultural operations and street sweeping shall permit emissions therefrom

    which cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution.
     
  14. Dug8498

    Dug8498
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Jun 20, 2018
    227
    88
    Loc:
    Southern NH
    Move to NH, you can do whatever you want! :)

    I would not be happy at all if a neighbor did that before talking to me in person like a reasonable adult. I'd do as much research as you can to understand the power/potential of this complaint. A complaint is just a complaint. I also second Bad LP's advice of getting some bio bricks or other type of compressed log so that you're burning a little cleaner until your wood can properly season

    Your firewood dealer's claim that wood can't naturally season below 20% is wrong.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    SeanBB likes this.
  15. rook_ki

    rook_ki
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 2, 2013
    30
    6
    brenndatomu, I don't know the difference between smoke and steam. How do I tell the difference?
     
  16. Kevin Weis

    Kevin Weis
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Mar 3, 2018
    687
    217
    Loc:
    Union Bridge, Md
    I'm sure there have been other cases like this elsewhere. Wonder how they fared.
     
  17. PaulOinMA

    PaulOinMA
    Feeling the Heat 2.
    NULL
    

    Oct 20, 2018
    293
    105
    Loc:
    MA
    Do a search. There was an article in the Worcester Telegram-Gazette a while ago about complaints in some town. I think it might have been around Sturbridge. Look to see whatever became of that. I'll try to find the article.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  18. PaulOinMA

    PaulOinMA
    Feeling the Heat 2.
    NULL
    

    Oct 20, 2018
    293
    105
    Loc:
    MA
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  19. blades

    blades
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 23, 2008
    3,191
    941
    Loc:
    WI, Leroy
    pretty nasty set of codes and definitions there of. Looks to be the same kind of xyzx that has been used on farmers near newly developed suburbs.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  20. GadDummit

    GadDummit
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    May 27, 2017
    165
    133
    Loc:
    Oklahoma
    Just shoot the hippie and run him through the stove. Bastard deserves nothing more than that. Wish I could help more, but I've got zero tolerance for hipster idiots that move into a neighborhood then complain about the already existing neighbors (farmers, ranchers, etc). The judge should tell him to stuff it up his rear sideways and blow it out with hotsauce but judges aren't what they used to be.

    I wish you the best of luck.
     
    moresnow, D8Chumley, pernox and 4 others like this.
  21. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Nov 18, 2018
    1,969
    892
    Loc:
    Downeast Maine

    Imagine if you saved up money for years to finally get your own house, only to end up with a neighbor that spews noxious fumes all over your new house. The problem is, you bought the house in the summer and didn't know your new neighbor would be burning unseasoned wood. To top it all off, your family member has asthma and can't tolerate the particulates in the smoke and is forced to stay inside for fear of dying.

    Not every person who files a complaint is a person you don't like. If nobody filed complaints about wood smoke, we wouldn't have EPA stoves. If nobody complained about smog, your white shirt would turn grey simply by walking through a city.

    I personally don't mind a bit of wood smoke, but it sounds like this dude's cat is probably not functioning well since it's five years old and he's burning unseasoned wood. I bet there is quite a bit of smoke coming out of the chimney, and maybe it blows directly into the neighbors house. That would be super frustrating. Certainly a better compromise should have been reached, but that's not what happened.

    OP, you should get some sort of compressed wood product and replace your cat(s) and have someone watch your chimney throughout the startup to see how much smoke you really make.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  22. kennyp2339

    kennyp2339
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Feb 16, 2014
    4,308
    2,114
    Loc:
    07462
    This one was a pretty tough read, lots of different elements.
    I always try to stay civil with all my neighbors, I know I'm far from perfect but I try to be the nice guy, whether its plowing snow, giving a hand or that friendly wave if I see you outside.
    I do take issue with smoke complaints, both from the op's perspective and the neighbors perspective. Whats a lot? your definition of a lot of smoke is way different then mine, so there could be an issue there. Is this an overzealous neighbor that just wants to change everything because of there own entitlement identity, or is this a neighbor who's standard of living has become substandard due to the smoke, perhaps asthma related..but who knows.
    I find it hard to believe that burning (2) certified epa approved cat stoves creates so much smoke during the burn that it effects everyone around, but I also agree that while loading the stove up with the by-pass open using wood that might be over that 20% threshold will create more smoke then when I load my princess with 15-18% wood moisture content.

    What really gets my blood pressure up though is how the board of health needs to be involved, unfortunately once code compliance gets involved a paper trail gets established. I don't know whether the dept of health can order you to stop burning, or if there's a maximum smoke allowance (like in Alaska) or of the dept of health just sends an inspector to check the condition and either tells the neighbor that his report is unfounded or knocks on your door to have a talk.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    Soundchasm likes this.
  23. hickoryhoarder

    hickoryhoarder
    Feeling the Heat 2.
    NULL
    

    Apr 5, 2013
    276
    66
    Loc:
    Indiana
    My main question: how many feet away is your neighbor's house? If it's something like 15, 30, or 50, you're essentially in an urban situation with respect to each other. I only use wood about 10% of the time because I'm in a small city -- I and most of my neighbors are on 1/4 acre lots. There can be analogous situations pretty far outside small cities or villages.

    I get virtually no smoke outside, even three minutes after I light the kindling. I get no smoke during the fire, and seldom any at the end (I check all of this because it's my responsibility as a neighbor. Others in the neighborhood aren't so careful, and don't have as new equipment, but they also use mainly their furnace for heat. So it works that probably ten out of forty houses have fireplaces or stoves. It would not work if any of them heated primarily with wood.) It is usually not possible to stand in my front yard, ten feet from the chimney and 15 feet below it, and smell that we have a fire. Guests are usually surprised as they step in the house. So that is achievable with my 2009 insert. I do burn hot, cheerful fires, which is different than heating a house while in bed for eight hours. Part of the reason for the hot is again to protect my neighbors.

    Like you, I burn a lot of oak, usually red oak. In a sunny, breezy driveway, wood stacked for maximum air, I season it for 2-3 years before burning. (It has generally been seasoned for maybe 3 months when I buy it.) Your one year sounds way too short. I would expect smoke.

    My hands and eyes know when a piece of wood is ready. They're lightweight, fissured, lighter or gray in color, etc. I've never seen oak ready in under 2 years. Even split small for kindling, I give it a year. The first year I wasn't as smart, and some splits didn't catch rapidly and snap and crackle right away as oak should. There was some smoke outside sometimes until I wised up and looked at what I was putting in the stove.

    Visitors from California cities are surprised at my wood burning, because they have strict laws against smoke. But they seem reassured by the fact they never see any smoke, or smell anything.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    Jeffm1 and Soundchasm like this.
  24. brenndatomu

    brenndatomu
    Minister of Fire 2.
    NULL
    

    Aug 21, 2013
    3,922
    1,426
    Loc:
    NE Ohio
    Steam is pure white...and dissipates within a short time after coming out of the chimney...5-10'...not more than 20' (normally)
    Smoke tends to look similar, but with a blue or gray tone to it...sometimes dark gray and even light brown...but the biggest difference is it lingers on much longer after coming out...if you watch closely and the light is right, smoke thins/spreads out eventually, but it often takes a bit to "disappear"
    My employer runs a electric power plant...people are always running their jaws about all the "smoke" it makes in the winter...problem is, they are referring to the cooling towers...its all steam!
    The actual smokestack is 300' in the air and you rarely notice anything at all coming out of that...the cooling towers are much shorter and make huge clouds of steam, so they are much more noticeable.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  25. Boxer

    Boxer
    Member 2.
    NULL
    

    Aug 30, 2009
    66
    43
    Loc:
    SE Ohio
    Posts like this remind me why I don’t live in town. I don’t appreciate people telling me what I can and can’t do on my own property.
    Were you aware of these zoning bylaws when you bought your place? Were they in effect when the town took your money for the two permits to instal the stoves? I would think the fact they gave you permits for them would weigh heavily in your favor.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    JimBear and GadDummit like this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page