Ban Backyard Trash Burning Editorial in Ogdensburg Journal 1/23/02 smoking burn barrel link to homepage

The Journal, Ogdensburg, NY     Page 4     Wed. Jan. 23, 2002


Ban Backyard Trash Burning

We’re pleased to see the St. Lawrence County Legislature defeated an effort to kill a backyard burning ban before the board has even devised a draft law.

Numerous communities across St. Lawrence County currently have laws on the books that prohibit home owners from burning their trash in barrels in their backyards.

It’s a sensible prohibition.

Most communities banned the practice years ago because neighbors objected to the smell, the soot and the ashes that would be blown into their yards from burning trash.

But today, there’s a far more important issue at stake.

Burning trash in backyards is more than just messy and noxious. It’s a health menace.

It’s unhealthy, not just to neighbors, but to the people and the families who are burning trash in their backyards.

Today’s trash is filled with plastics and a host of other materials that when burned at low temperatures in backyard burn barrels produce a variety of dangerous substances.

Scientists say that more pollutants are created in a couple of backyard burn barrels than are produced in a municipal garbage incinerator.

Rural residents burn their household trash because it’s cheaper and easier than hiring someone to pick up their trash or hauling it to a transfer station.

We can understand their view, but thousands of county residents pay the cost of properly disposing of their trash.

We realize that with the county legislature up for reelection this fall, many of the board members do not want to vote on a measure that will antagonize their constituents.

After all, those folks burning trash in their backyards vote. And they will probably vote against any legislator who dares to tell them they can’t use their backyard burn barrel.

While we realize that legislators have legitimate fears about their own reelections, we think they should also stop to think about the more than 100 out of control grass fires that occur each spring, many of them caused by careless owners of burn barrels.

Every year, area volunteer fire departments are called upon, repeatedly, to spend their afternoons fighting grass fires caused by careless owners of burn barrels.

The owners just light up their trash with no thought of wind direction or what might be flammable near by.

Sometimes, the fires spread into adjoining neighbors’ properties, threatening homes, garages and even businesses.

The grass fires waste the time and resources of the volunteers in the fire departments, detracting from their ability and readiness to respond to fires that were not intentionally set by careless people.

We think the county legislature has debated the issue long enough. It’s time to ban the practice.