Hotly-debated burn ban set for vote in Washington Township

August 05, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The final action to adopt a controversial ordinance banning the outright burning of leaves and, in most circumstances, brush, takes place Aug. 15 when the Washington Township Supervisors vote on it.

The supervisors have been wrestling with the proposal for months. It was dropped in their laps by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. At stake is a $292,000 grant the township has applied for from the DEP to pay for upgrades at its recycling center off Pa. 16 east of Waynesboro.

The township already has spent money on a building and equipment and plans to use the grant to reimburse those costs.


The township has to follow DEP dictates in writing the ordinance or the grant could be lost, officials said.

The DEP, according to the supervisors, wants a total ban on the burning of anything that can be recycled, including leaves and brush.

The new ordinance has no bearing on township residents' ability to burn nonrecyclable trash in burn barrels on their property.

Recyclables include glass bottles, aluminum and bimetal cans, steel cans, number 1 and 2 plastic containers, newspaper and cardboard. Junk mail and most newspaper advertising inserts can be burned because they are not recyclable.

Residents have attended several meetings to complain to the supervisors that they would face hardships if not allowed to burn brush on their property.

Residents would have to bag their fallen leaves in biodegradable plastic bags and leave them on the curb for their trash hauler to pick up. They also could haul them to the recycling center, where they are turned into compost, along with most of the brush brought in.

About 400 tons of leaves are composted at the center each year, officials said.

"Most people will continue to bring their leaves to the recycling center," Township Manager Michael Christopher said this week. "DEP's goal is to stop burning what should be recycled. There is no wiggle room in the leaf ordinance."

There is some when it comes to burning brush.

The supervisors, in the face of strong opposition from residents, managed to get the DEP to soften the rules concerning brush.

Farmers can burn brush at will, as can contractors on job sites. Under the revised draft, residents will be allowed to burn brush following major storms that knock down trees and branches.

The final draft states that no brush can be burned within 100 feet of a structure. The original draft set the limit at 50 feet.

Brush and trees to be burned have had to originate from the property where they will be burned. The only exception is if they were dumped on the property by nearby flooded streams.

According to the draft, other permitted burning includes fires to warm a building construction site, for a public gathering such as a bonfire, to prevent and control disease, firefighter training, a fire set solely for recreational use, ceremonial purposes or a fire for cooking food.

The running joke at supervisor meetings in recent weeks was if one wanted to burn brush, one should bring along a box of marshmallows to make it legal.

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