The Orchard City Town Board, at its regular meeting on Sept. 13, heard complaints from residents of Horizons West mobile home park about smoke from burning piles of brush near the retirement community.
Deann Thomas, a resident of the park, and three of her neighbors told the town board of smoke and other problems they claim were caused by the burning of brush just north of their senior mobile home park on Running Deer Road. A representative of Horizons Care Center also told the board of discomfort to residents of the nursing home due to smoke.
Thomas said the burning was taking place within 75 feet of homes in the "sensitive smoke community" where residents suffer from COPD and congestive heart failure. "Smoke impacts people for health," she told the town board.
The burning is classified as an agricultural burn and so is exempt from the state's burn permit requirements, local health department officials confirmed to the DCI.
A large acreage north of the park has been cleared of mature elm and Russian olive trees. Heavy equipment was used in the clearing operations. The brush was gathered into what Thomas called "slash piles" and which she asserts are not considered agricultural burning under current regulations. Green wood left smouldering caused smoke and discomfort to park residents, she said.
Another resident of the park, Dorothy Loyer, complained of sinus problems and headaches. She told trustees that in the 90 degree temperatures when burning took place prior to Labor Day was "just not livable. I feel that something needs to be done," she said.
Another resident, Izetta Hansen, told trustees that the brush clearing operations by heavy equipment had caused "noise and dust that went on for days." She said the operations have limited the use of her back porch for the past two summers.
Park resident Roy Pitts called the burning "a breech of permit" and a "blatant disregard for health and welfare." He said that he hopes the trustees will consider the important issue.
Tammy Blanchette, an employee at Horizons Care Center, said smoke had impacted residents at the nursing home facility also. She offered the suggestion, "A simple solution would to be to burn the piles of brush further to the north" away from the Horizons properties.
She said "We appreciate that the owners are working to clear up the place." She also confirmed the comments of others that the burning has created an "extreme inconvenience" due to having to close windows during hot weather and limited use of swamp coolers which was "very uncomfortable."
Later in the evening during trustee discussions it was noted that the town doesn't have jurisdiction over the air quality issues. They are administered by the state health department. Also, the town doesn't have a burn permit requirement, an issue the town planning commission has been asked to look into.