Recreational Fires Must Be Eliminated

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The air is smoky from burning wood in North St. Paul, MN, almost every evening. It is a nightmare. What used to be a nice place to live has become a living hell.

WARNING: If you buy a house in North St. Paul, MN, you will regret it! It may be the biggest, most expensive mistake you ever make. You will breathe smoky air almost every day of your life in this town. This is not an exaggeration. The wood smoke in this town gets heavy and gets heavy often. When you want to get out of this dump of a town, how many people do you think are going to want to buy a house in a city where heavy air pollution every night is normal and clean air is rare? This blog gets thousands of visitors every year. The word is out: North St. Paul is a horrible place to live!

Fresh air is very rare around here. If you are considering moving to North St. Paul or buying a home here, I strongly recommend that you do not do it no matter how good of a price you get. The only way you will be happy in this town is if you love breathing smoky air almost every day. North St. Paul, MN, is a horrible place to live because of the smoky air!

Burning wood, grass, leaves, paper, cardboard, and sometimes plastic, construction materials, and chemicals, if it is combustible it gets burned in North St. Paul and you are going to breathe it.

The air was smoky 25 out of 31 evenings in July 2009. We had 37 hours of continuous wood smoke in the air Aug. 29th - 31st. There was wood smoke in the air 19 consecutive evenings from Aug. 21st to Sept. 8th. It rained heavily on Aug. 20th, providing the only relief we got from wood smoke for almost three weeks.

Is this a good way to live? No. It is a horrible way to live. Take it from someone who knows. Breathing smoky, polluted air every day is misery.

Every day in this city several people are having recreational fires. Every evening the air is filled with the stench of burning wood. I am one person sick and tired of breathing smoky air every day. Is it too much to ask to be able to breathe fresh air in your own home?

Who is responsible for this wood smoke nightmare? The four city council members are responsible. Council members Jan Walczak, Bob Bruton, Terry Furlong, and Dave Zick have refused to do anything about this wood smoke problem. They don't care if you have a child with asthma. They don't care if you have to live like a shut-in because the air is so polluted. They don't care if your sinuses burn because the wood smoke is so heavy.

Our four Council members have defended the rights of a small percentage of households to burn wood daily over the rights of all the rest of us to breathe.

You have no right to breathe under Walczak, Bruton, Furlong, and Zick. Burners have the right to burn wood 49 hours a week recreationally. The rest of us have no rights at all.

If you are considering purchasing real estate in the city of North Saint Paul, Minnesota (55109), factor this blog carefully into your decision. Buying a home in this city means that your kids will breathe smoky air while playing in the yard almost every day. Your baby will breathe smoky air in her crib should you leave the windows open around your house. If you leave your windows open you will wake up in the middle of the night choking on smoky air.

Perhaps worst of all, your utility rates will be high because you will have to run the air conditioner instead of leaving the windows open on a cool summer evening. You have no other choice because almost every night the air is too smoky to breathe in this city. Consider this blog your warning.

North St. Paul, Minnesota, is a wonderful community other than the wood smoke. If we could restore fresh air like we used to enjoy, life would be happy again. But that is not going to happen any time soon.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

A reader from Pennsylvania

I got a rare positive email from someone out in Pennsylvania today. This person has trouble with a neighbor who refuses to stop burning wood and polluting the air. The local city leaders have refused to do anything about the air pollution. I would like to take the time to say hi. I know exactly what you are going through.

If your trouble is with one neighbor, consider yourself fortunate. Here in North Saint Paul, Minnesota, many people burn. The problem isn't as simple when there are many burners. When I say many people burn, I don't mean a majority of households. Less than 15% of households burn wood in the northern half of the city, excluding the winter months (probably closer to 10%). We are a densely populated suburb. There are about 175 to 200 homes within a quarter mile radius of me. I've seen recreational bonfires or grass burning at about 16 of them. There are a few more that burn, though. If I find a pocket of smoky air, I can only pinpoint the house doing the burning maybe half the time.

If any one of those households burns wood, the entire neighborhood will reek of wood smoke. All it takes is one. On any given night, it is almost certain that one of them will burn when the weather is nice. I've been able to track the source of wood smoke a half-mile away. If we extend the radius from a quarter-mile to a half-mile, wood smoke pollution is a near certainty every evening, as it has been for years.

If I were in a similar situation with only one neighbor polluting the air regularly, I would fight fire with fire. When the wind blows his direction, I would start a smoky fire to give him a taste of his own medicine. I would spray it with a little water every now and then so it got really steamy and smoky. I would watch to see when he went to sleep and if he left his windows open, I would go outside and start a recreational fire and smoke up his bedroom. I wouldn't limit recreational fires to weekends. I would burn all seven days of the week or as much as local ordinance allows. I would also pay attention to his comings and goings. If he went somewhere and left the windows open, I'd start a smoky bonfire so he came back home to a smoky house like you have. Do unto others as they do unto you.

There are some people who are not interested in being good neighbors. You cannot get these people to change their behavior no matter how much you try. Some people will even go out of their way to do things if they know it bothers you. You certainly don't have many options when what they are doing is legal, no matter how big of a nuisance. When you have exhausted all diplomatic options, the only recourse you have is to get even, I'm afraid.

One other option you have is to draw attention to the issue. I started this blog to serve as a public document of the hell we endure living in North St. Paul. In the past year, I've had visitors from all over the world. People are reading about this nightmare of a city. Another goal of mine is to cast a spotlight on the quality of leadership from our mayor and city council. If Mayor Michael (Mike) Kuehn and city council members Bob Bruton, Terry Furlong, Jan Walczak, and Dave Zick refuse to end this air pollution, I want as many people as possible to know their names and know they support smoky air. If they do the right thing and end recreational burning, I want people to know that they are friends of everyone who values fresh, unpolluted air. I want them to get credit or shame as appropriate.

I have no interest in being a community activist. I have no interest in unfairly criticizing our mayor and city council members. Me and my family and our neighbors are sick to death of breathing smoky air every day. Suffering in silence is no longer an option. We were stretched to the breaking point long ago.

Phase II of my campaign begins soon. If the elected officials don't end this pollution, I am going to make sure everyone in this city knows they are responsible for it. I will knock on every door in this city if I have to. I am even considering going so far as to run for office. That is something I definitely do not want to do. But if that is what it takes to end this damn air pollution, I will have no choice but to do it. Somebody has to have the gumption to do what is right. If our current mayor and city council members won't do it, the burden will fall to me.

A good leader is hard to find. I'm hopeful that I will find some good ones in my city. I wish you the best of luck finding one in yours. Try talking to some others in your community about wood smoke pollution. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that most other people find wood smoke to be as much of a nuisance as you do. You won't find many people who want to breathe smoky air every day, especially inside their own homes.