Backyard burns a thing of the past

Mary Ann Kearns - [email protected]

A burn pile or a metal barrel for burning trash used to be a pretty common site outside most homes, particularly in rural areas.

But the day of the backyard burn barrel are over, Mason County Recycling Manager Steve Frodge said.

Today, state law limits material that can be burned to paper products that have not been treated with wax or plastic and to brush from the burn site, Frodge said.

“A lot of people are unaware” of changes in law that prohibit most materials from being burned on site or even burned at all, Frodge said.

In the past, it was a common practice for area fire departments to burn abandoned or dilapidated buildings for training. But that is no longer allowable, Frodge said, primarily because of materials used during construction such as lead-based paint and asbestos shingles, all of which release toxins into the air when burned. So demolished structures must either be buried on site, when allowed, or trucked to the landfill for disposal.

According to the Kentucky Division for Air Quality “Aerosol cans, plastic, tires, food waste, coated wire, motor oil, painted or treated lumber, and many other materials create toxic fumes and ash that are hazardous to human health and the environment. Children, the elderly and those with existing health problems are particularly vulnerable to smoke from open burning.”

Burning materials such as plastics can be harmful to the environment, releasing toxins and poisons into the air that eventually settle into the ground, Those toxins have even been found to contaminate garden plants, Frodge said. So the plastic burned this summer may find its way into the tomatoes you feed your family next year, he said.

There are some exceptions to the law, mostly dealing with agricultural issues such as plant beds but those exceptions are very limited, Frodge said. Camp fires, ceremonial bonfires and cooking fires are allowed, according to information from the KDAQ.

All open burning is prohibited when a burn ban has been issued by the county judge-executive, Frodge said. During fire hazard season, Oct. 1-Dec. 15 and Feb. 15-April 30, open burning is restricted to 6 p.m.-6 a.m.

Not only is open burning a threat to the environment, it can also be a safety hazard, Frodge pointed out.

“All it takes is a spark that blows in the wrong direction,” to turn a controlled fire into one that is uncontrollable, he said.

Violators of burn regulations can be fined up to $20,000, Frodge said.

Anyone with questions concerning what can or cannot be burned can contact Frodge at the Mason County Recycling Center at 759-5459 or he is even willing to visit a site if requested, he said.

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Mary Ann Kearns

[email protected]