2136 US 20
Nassau, NY 12123
September 11, 2011
Albany/Capital District Office
Leo W. O’Brien Building
11A Clinton Avenue, Room 420
Albany, NY 12207
Dear Senator Schumer:
RE: Lichak DVD follow-up
On August 8, 2011 we sent your office the enclosed letter along with a DVD. Your staff
member Jordan called and requested more details. This letter is that requested follow-up.
The video that we sent is of our yard filled with wood smoke. This has been going on
since the Fall of 2004. In that time we have been in contact with our local Village and
Town, our County Health Dept., NYS Dept of Health, NYS Dept of State, NYS Attorney
General’s Office, the NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation and the EPA.
Surprisingly all of these levels of government have some kind of laws but getting them
enforced is near impossible. Because our health and life have been so impacted by this
smoke we have done much research to try and get our clean air back for ourselves but
especially for our daughter. We have not been successful and so are requesting your
BRIEF BACKGROUND OF WOOD BOILERS (see also enclosed timeline)
Most people including ourselves were not familiar with the source of this pollution. It is
a wood boiler. A wood boiler is NOT like a wood stove. Wood boilers are not
regulated by the EPA. We have enclosed a timeline which provides some further detail
The basic story is that when the EPA made rules for wood stoves back in the early 1990s
there was a loophole in their definition that excludes many appliances including wood
boilers. According to data we have EPA now has at least 260 exemptions. NYS and
many other States started to notice and have complaints on wood boilers as far back as
2003. At that time NYS DEC sent a letter to manufacturers that wood boilers did not
meet NYS laws. This letter however did not stop the sales of wood boilers in NY nor did
DEC inform the public (we have that letter if you want a copy).
In 2005 the NYS AG’s Office issued the report Smoke Gets in Your Lungs. In this report
they said that the EPA restricts wood stove emissions. The current restriction is 4.1 g/hr.
Their data showed wood boilers with emissions as high as 269 g/hr. (EPA has data with
emissions over 300 grams per hour.)
Lichak Wood Smoke issue
In 2005 the NY AG wrote a letter with other States to the EPA. The EPAs response was
to create a “Voluntary Program.” Unfortunately a voluntary program does not address
the boilers already in place nor does it stop the sales of the dirtiest boilers. This leaves
the States still struggling with the issue. Only the States of Washington and Oregon have
laws which require all residential bio-mass to meet one standard and that is the EPA
wood stove standard.
The Voluntary Program that EPA put in place claims this will encourage manufacturers
to build cleaner devices. It has not. In fact the Phase II devices that many States adopted
because of EPA’s program are causing problems too. Although EPA claims the Phase II
boilers are 90% cleaner there is a major problem with how they certify these boilers.
They use a test called the OWHH Method 28. This test uses kiln dried red oak stacked in
a tepee. This is not real world burning so it grossly under reports the emissions from
these boilers. Northeast States Air Use Management’s (www.nescaum.org) data has
shown that a Voluntary Program boiler can still emit 95 grams per hour --- way more
than even the oldest wood stove that EPA passed laws against in the early 1990s.
10/04 Neighbor installed Outdoor Wood Boiler about 100 feet from our home
This boiler cycled on and off squashing the oxygen to the fire. When the damper
opened thick heavy acrid smoke was expelled. The smoke is so dense it drops to
the ground and you are forced to breathe it. We are east of our neighbor and our
house has a hill behind it with 35 – 40 foot trees. The smoke would come into our
yard and surround our home. We could not open our windows in warm weather --
these boilers heat hot water so people often use them to heat not only their water
for heating but also for general hot water, hot tubs, and swimming pools – they
often burn them year round. Our neighbor burned his from Sept. thru May.
When the temperature would reach 80 degrees in the Spring we could not open
our windows because the smoke would come in. Other impacts included the
inability to use our clothes line or porch. Our daughter could not go out and sled
in the winter, play on her swingset in the fall, or enjoy the warming days of
Spring. We suffered health problems including persistent coughs, burning eyes,
respiratory infections. Wood smoke is not healthy.
Thru the years we tried every avenue to get relief. We started with our Village
and they told us they had no laws governing smoke. They did not direct us
elsewhere. We have since found that the Dept. of State has a Property
Maintenance Code that addresses emissions but localities will not enforce it
Lichak Wood Smoke issue
Finally in April 2008 a friend told us that DEC had jurisdiction. Little did we
know what that meant. The only tools they seemed to have were Air Resources
staff that are busy enforcing Industrial pollution and a poorly worded law going
back to 1971. Because of the number of complaints they received DEC Region 4
(the Regional Director was one of the authors of Smoke Gets in Your Lungs)
started to send staff to do opacity testing. Opacity testing however requires the
sun be behind the tester, requires the boiler to be in the open damper position
which can require a lot of staff time, and DEC will not go onto the polluters
property so if their view is blocked they cannot get their test. It took DEC until
October 23, 2009 to get this test done. A reading over 20% is a violation. DEC
had readings as high as 90% on our neighbor’s boiler (the “average” was 72%).
DEC allowed the boiler to continue to operate.
The DEC Legal Office told the Air Resources staff they needed another opacity
reading. DEC got that reading on 1/7/10. The readings were as high as 100%
with the averages 53.8%, 84% and 87%. The boiler was allowed to continue to
We found out that the boilers are allowed to continue polluting because DEC has
a poorly worded law from 1971 that they are using. As we understand it the only
way they can stop the pollution is by getting the polluter to agree to stop. They do
this by applying monetary pressure. They can fine up to $15,000. In our case
they assessed a fine of $3000. Our neighbor signed an Order on Consent on
2/12/10 which waived the fine. He was however allowed to continue to pollute
As you can well imagine the “process” for getting back your clean air is very
frustrating to all – those being polluted, the polluter and the NYS staff. Our
relationship with our neighbor is now horrible. He takes out his frustration on us.
In the timeframe between his Order on Consent and actual shut down he burned
garbage, wet wood and who knows what else. The smoke was thick, putrid and
colored green and blue.
We thought our nightmare was over. It was not.
October 2010 – our neighbor installed an INDOOR Wood Boiler (Harmon
Trident Boiler SF-160)
Unbeknown to us there are not only outdoor wood boilers that expel thick putrid
smoke at ground level, but there are also indoor boilers. In October 2010 our
neighbor installed an indoor wood boiler.
Lichak Wood Smoke issue
The smoke is just as horrendous. NYS still has no emission standard to do their
job of protecting the public’s health and EPA still has no laws governing these
DEC has told us they have no jurisdiction over home heating systems and told us to
contact our local code enforcer.
This makes no sense. If this is true then they had no jurisdiction over the outdoor
wood boiler since that is a home heating system and Part 211 that they are using has
language that does not specify indoor devices versus outdoor.
Conclusion and Requested Action
I hope this clarifies to you the story of our video. In all the research we have done we are
just shocked that so many public officials are aware of this problem --- AG, DOS, DOH,
DEC, County Health, Town and Village Officials and the EPA and yet no one can
seemingly protect the health of our children.
The American Lung Association says that asthma rates among children are on the rise.
Nearly 1 in 11 people have asthma. It is no wonder to us why that is. The Northeast
States Coordinated Air Use Management (www.nescaum.org) estimated that by 2010
there would be 500,000 wood boilers emitting 900,000 Tons of pollution per year.
We need your help in not only getting DEC to shut down this boiler so our family can
breathe but also to get the EPA to address this issue for the country. These boilers are
now a major contributor of carbon and are causing thousands of families all across the
U.S. to suffer. In our research on this issue we have been in touch with citizens groups
fighting this very issue in Maine, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan,
We can meet with your office and share with you more information or to answer any
further questions you have.
John and Bonnie Lichak
NYS Part 211 --- existing NYS laws
Chemical Composition of Wood Smoke vs. Tobacco Smoke