Three breaches of clean air standards in Hamilton as the city’s winter fires were stoked up have triggered tough new controls to limit air pollution.
Users of domestic open fireplaces installed after May 2014 will not be permitted to burn solid fuels such as coal and wood, and tough restrictions on industrial air discharges are already in force because of the breaches.
The restrictions are the result of national environmental standards from the Ministry for the Environment designed to protect people from the effects of PM10 particles put into the air from burning and other activities. The particles mainly come from wood burnt in older, inefficient home burners and open fires and can cause health issues when breathed in.
Waikato Regional Council monitoring at its Peachgrove Rd site showed air quality standards were exceeded in Hamilton on May 12, 13 and 15.
“We believe the main reason for the exceedances is more home fires being used as the weather has cooled,” said scientist Dr Jonathan Caldwell.
Under the standards, more than one breach in one year triggers automatic restrictions on fireplace use and any new industrial discharges in the city. “Any solid-fuel burning, open fireplace installed within a home on or after 14 May 2014 will not be able to be used for burning solid fuels,” he said.
Residents will still be able to use enclosed fire places, such as woodburners, and could also keep using existing open fireplaces, said Dr Caldwell.
Dr Caldwell also said that, under the new restrictions, if an industry wants to introduce a new and large discharge of PM10 to air, or an existing industry wants to increase its discharge of PM10, it will only get a resource consent for this if it can get someone else to reduce their discharges by an equivalent amount. “This may involve such things as paying homeowners to convert to ‘clean’ home heating systems or assisting another industrial user, hospital or school to reduce their emissions,” said Dr Caldwell.
These industrial restrictions can be lifted if Hamilton has five consecutive years of no more than one exceedance per year of the standard, he said.
However, under the current standards, the ban on using solid-fuel open fire places installed on or after 14 May 2014 would stay in place indefinitely.