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'Weather moratorium' imposed on wood boilers

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM Lorri McCool, health inspector for the town of Wilbraham, recently met with the Advisory Board of Health to discuss what regulations would be in the best interest of the town when it came to the oft-debated outdoor wood boilers (OWB). She also met with the Board of Selectmen and building inspector Lance Trevallion to discuss what is being done about the boilers.

During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, OWBs began to appear in the residential heating appliance market. An outdoor wood boiler is essentially a free standing insulated structure in which a firebox, vented to a chimney, is surrounded by a water jacket. The unit operates as follows: wood is burned in the firebox, which heats the water, which is then circulated via underground piping to a building in order to provide space heating and/or domestic hot water, according to Maine's Bureau of Air Quality Web site (

"Every community is different in how they live," McCool said. "All the surrounding towns either already have regulations or moratoriums in place and Wilbraham is the only town that hasn't done anything yet."

There are an estimated six to 10 OWBs in Wilbraham, with only one complaint about a boiler lodged in the past year, according to McCool. "It's not an imminent issue for the few we have," she said. "We should see what happens with the state regulations." She added that the state is really putting effort into putting regulations together.

"Right now an OWB could be built on any property in Wilbraham," Selectman David Barry said. "That concerns me."

"It's a big investment," Trevallion replied. "People don't know how they're going to work until they're put up. They need electrical and water permits to install them. They cost between $7,000 and $10,000, plus the cost of wood."

Barry mentioned again that surrounding towns have restrictions, and the fact that Wilbraham had none bothered him. "I'm concerned about the health issues if these things start to appear," he said.

Selectman Patrick Brady agreed that health issues could materialize if the OWBs are not used properly. "You can't regulate common sense," he stated.

McCool explained that nuisance complaints could be filed if the existing OWBs became a problem. "We would investigate how it's causing a nuisance. When does it cross a line? It's a difficult thing to try to enforce," she told the selectmen.

She suggested the possibility of putting a moratorium on town residents buying new OWBs as a temporary measure to the Board of Selectmen. Barry said he couldn't "see a downside to a moratorium."

"A moratorium would make people think twice and think harder about buying a boiler," McCool said. She continued that it really wouldn't be that effective because of the current weather conditions, as boilers couldn't be installed until the spring.

"A weather moratorium is in place," Board of Selectmen Chair James Thompson stated. "This issue won't be exploding in the next six months."

The issue of outdoor wood boilers will be an ongoing discussion.