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Burn Barrels Banned Beginning Next Week

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One of the touchstones of rural life — a barrel full of burning household garbage — is a thing of the past starting next week, at least as far as the law is concerned.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will ban all open burning of residential waste as of October 14. The ban had applied only in towns of 20,000 people or more, which left out every town in Oswego County. There are exceptions to the new law.

State DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said: “Burning household trash is dangerous on several levels. It can release potentially dangerous compounds – dioxins and other potential carcinogens – from materials burned in backyard fires. And it is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state.”

According to the DEC, new studies show that open burning puts dangerous chemicals such as dioxins and furans into the air at levels greater than all other sources combined. Among the chemicals released into the air by open burning are arsenic, carbon monoxide, benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, lead, and hydrogen cyanide.

“While bygone generations burned their garbage, that practice now must end. Decades ago, garbage didn’t contain plastics, foils, batteries, paper bleached with chlorine and other materials used today,” Commissioner Grannis said.

The regulation bans all open burning except for:

  • On-site burning of limbs and branches between May 15th and the following March 15th in any town with a total population less than 20,000.
  • Barbecue grills, maple sugar arches and similar outdoor cooking devices.
  • Small cooking and camp fires.
  • On-site burning of organic agricultural wastes, but not pesticides, plastics or other non-organic material.
  • Liquid petroleum fueled smudge pots to prevent frost damage to crops.
  • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires.
  • Disposal of a flag or religious item.
  • Burning on an emergency basis of explosive or other dangerous or contraband by police, etc.
  • Prescribed burns performed according to state regulations.
  • Fire training with some restrictions on the use of acquired structures.
  • Individual open fires to control plant and animal disease outbreaks as approved by DEC upon the request by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets.
  • Open fires as necessary to control invasive plant and insect species.

A complete outline of common questions and answers on the new regulation is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.html on the DEC website.