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Residential Construction Contractor's Guide

#10 - Air Quality

Several construction and demolition (C&D) activities impact outdoor air quality. Open burning of cleared vegetation or C&D waste can produce smoke, total suspended particulate (TSP) matter, carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbon emissions. Negative human health effects from these emissions have been linked with various heart and respiratory diseases.

See Section 4-Design Considerations for information about indoor air quality (radon, VOCs, carpet installation, formaldehyde, biological contaminants, combustion pollutants, and CFCs). For information about asbestos, see Section 9-Special Wastes.

Open Burning

Construction activities that impact air quality will more than likely require some sort of permit and will be strictly regulated.  Of major concern is open burning.  Using fire to clear land and dispose of debris is a major source of air pollution. Particularly in populated areas, pollution from outdoor burning threatens public health and the environment.

Always check with your local fire department before you burn. State and local regulations apply to:

  • Fires in burn barrels, outdoor fireplaces, and backyard incinerators
  • Burning yard debris or land waste
  • Burning stumps to clear land
  • Burning construction or demolition debris

Regulations may prohibit open burning of the following materials:

  • Treated lumber and timber
  • Hazardous wastes
  • Asbestos
  • Automobile parts
  • Wire insulation
  • Rubber products
  • Tires
  • Styrofoam and other plastics
  • Tar paper
  • Wet garbage
  • Oil, petroleum, or petroleum-treated products, including painted wood and wood treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol
  • Asphalt
  • Industrial waste
  • Any material that creates dense smoke or noxious odors
  • Food wastes

Permitting may be required on multiple levels, make sure you have completed all required applications.  Individual fire districts issue fire permits and may prohibit open burning based on local fire safety concerns.  Many communities have local laws prohibiting or restricting open burning.  Before starting a fire, always check with your local fire department to see if burning is allowed in that community on that particular day.

Best Pollution Prevention Practices

Objective:

Provide an alternative to burning plant and wood debris.


Practices:

  • Take cleared vegetation and wood debris to a composting facility or have it chipped on-site and used for mulch.

Pariculate Emissions Control

Construction and demolition activities have the potential to cause large amounts of dust.  These types of emissions minimized wherever possible, and are probably regulated in your area.  These emissions result from:  

  • Construction, alteration, repair, or demolition of buildings or roads
  • Operation of equipment
  • Handling, transport, or storage of materials

Best Pollution Prevention Practices

Objective:

To prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne.


Practices:

  • Use of water or non-toxic chemicals to control dust around material stockpiles during demolition, construction, grading of roads, or clearing of land.
  • Limit the driving speed of construction vehicles.
  • Enclose material stockpiles when the use of water or chemicals is not sufficient to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne.
  • Install and use hoods, fans, and fabric filters to enclose and vent particulates from dusty materials.
  • Provide adequate containment during sandblasting or other similar operations.
  • Cover open-bodied trucks that transport materials likely to become airborne.
  • Promptly remove from paved streets dirt or other material that could become airborne.

WOOD HEATING DEVICES

Residential wood heating devices contribute to air pollution and some communities, because of climatological factors and large numbers of wood burning homes, do not meet EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM-10 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 micrometers and less). In response to past PM-10 NAAQS violations, many communities are becoming especially stringent in their wood burning requirements.

The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1990 directs each state to take steps to demonstrate attainment of the PM-10 NAAQS.  Always try to install low-emission woodstoves.

EPA-Certified Woodstoves

Federal regulations require all new woodstoves to meet EPA certification standards. EPA-certified woodstoves (known as Phase II Residential Wood Heaters) and New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)-exempt wood heating appliances are currently the only wood heating devices that can be sold in the United States. Based on specific design criteria, NSPS-exempt appliances are exempt from wood heating emission limits. Contact local authorities for more information about NSPS-exempt appliances.

EPA began certifying woodstoves and fireplace inserts in 1990. EPA distributes a list of over 200 certified woodstoves manufactured in the U.S. Contact EPA for a copy of this list.  Installation of woodstoves must follow procedures in Tables 5A-5D in the 1991 edition of the Uniform Mechanical Code. Used, non-certified wood heating devices may be sold for scrap or traded in.

EPA-certified woodstoves and fireplace inserts have a permanent label that includes ratings for smoke emissions and heating efficiency.  Rules and regulations for the proper installation of heating devices vary by county. Always contact local authorities to check current policies.

Regulations

  • 40 CFR, Part 60, Subpart AAA, Section 60.530 through 60.539b Federal wood heating regulations.

Contact

  • U.S. EPA (202) 564-7091
    Wood Heater Program 2223-A
    401 M St., SW
    Washington, DC 20460

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