April 06, 2020

Wood boiler ban frustrates council Millinocket panel still weighing ordinance

MILLINOCKET – The Town Council is continuing to consider an ordinance that would ban the most polluting outdoor wood-fired boilers, but councilors are finding the process frustrating.

With their second reading of the proposed ordinance Thursday night, councilors found themselves struggling to find a townwide legislative answer that would be fair to all and easily enforceable to address a problem that largely surrounds one boiler in one neighborhood.

No one was satisfied with the ordinance.

“There are too many issues with this,” Councilor Bruce McLean said Thursday. “I can’t support it the way it is written. This has always been about one particular issue. We know where that issue exists. I am not in favor of slapping everybody’s hands because there is” one small group of neighbors who do not get along.

Councilors Jimmy Busque and Matthew Polstein agreed, saying the ordinance would harm too many people who have or might buy such boilers, which are used for home heating. Polstein said he found much of it arbitrary and unenforceable. He wondered how Code Enforcement Officer Michael Noble could define, much less enforce, the ordinance’s stipulations on the level of moisture within required “dried wood.”

“The unfortunate thing about this ordinance is that we are creating a new true nightmare for our code enforcement officer,” Polstein said. “There are a number of things in here that we should just eliminate.”

McLean recommended dropping the ordinance and awaiting forthcoming federal Environmental Protection Agency standards that would regulate outdoor wood boiler emissions. Those regulations are expected within two years.

Councilor Wallace Paul favored the ordinance. He and Councilor Scott Gonya, who co-authored the ordinance with Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, said that residents were struggling with heavy smoke conditions wherever wood-fired boilers are in town.

The number of boilers might be small, but that didn’t excuse the council from a responsibility to do what it could to address a big health problem, they said.

“We have situations where you have hours and hours and hours of smoke,” Paul said. “Where do these people go for recourse to this?

“One [boiler] can have a major impact on a neighborhood,” he added. “I would like to see us nip this in the bud.”

Gonya proposed the ban in August, saying several Penobscot Avenue residents live near a resident whose boiler emits so much smoke that a smoky odor has infiltrated their homes.

Noble said the ordinance is not perfect, but enforceable, and if Millinocket were to enact it, that would make the town a pioneer among several municipalities also considering such a ban.

The council will reconsider the ordinance at its meeting in two weeks.

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