Potsdam resident: old boilers should go
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - 1:51 pm

To the Editor:

A local radio station presented a report about the Town of Potsdam hearing on wood boilers. The sound bite chosen from my comments was the heart of what I wanted to say. Unfortunately, the introduction given was misleading, though.

I understand that such reports need to be composed quickly and distilled from a great deal of material.

I am not opposed to wood boilers. If wood is grown sustainably, it is a carbon-neutral, renewable resource.

The problem with wood is the pollution emitted by burning it. It’s not just the smoke you can see and smell, but also what you can’t.

Very small particles emitted in wood smoke, 2.5 microns or less (one-millionth of an inch), have been shown to cause both pulmonary and cardiac problems, and these particles travel much farther than one’s immediate neighbors.

They do not fall out of the air quickly and can travel as much as 1,200 miles over two weeks. People talk only about the effect on their immediate neighbors. Are not the people who live further away of equal importance?

At this point, I support the town’s tabled proposal for a moratorium on the installation of new wood boilers at least until the new state regulations are finalized.

I support a required changeover to more efficient, cleaner wood boilers than almost all those currently in use.

Superior wood boilers are coming onto the market now, and with Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine already having mandated stricter output standards for wood boilers, I would expect availability to increase.

I support a reasonable timetable to have to replace existing boilers. I don’t know whether the timetable in the proposed DEC regulation is what should be adopted, but there need to be deadlines in order to help improve air quality.

Given the experience with coal-fired power plants, not setting hard deadlines for replacement with higher efficiency technology will not work.

It will be possible to keep the existing boilers in operation for far too long.

I understand not wanting to get rid of something which is still working well, and I know the major cost for these heating systems.

I would hope a way can be found to help with the cost, a la “Cash for Clunkers” for cars or the rebates for replacing old appliances with Energy Star ones. Or maybe we can come up with another way to help homeowners.

In some way we need to eliminate the more polluting wood boilers. I believe that it is in the best interests of everyone’s health (and subsequent health costs) to decrease the harmful emissions from burning wood to heat our homes.

Eleanor Hopke