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Granby officials put hold on outdoor boilers

By Alex Ross

Staff Intern

GRANBY - Burning wood, whether in fireplaces or cast-iron woodstoves, has long been a common source of home heating. However, Granby residents looking to purchase or install a new outdoor wood boiler may have to wait a few months.

At a January 23 meeting, the town's Board of Health voted to enact a temporary prohibition on installing outdoor wood boilers, due to concerns over possible public health and environmental risks. Systems already installed can be grandfathered in. The ban went into effect Feb 1, and will remain in place until sometime this summer, when a set of regulations on the devices will be put into place.

The boilers, which resemble a small tool shed, are any where between 5x6 to 9x10 in size. Unlike traditional woodstoves in which heat travels through air, the water is heated to a desired temperature by automatic controls and flows through pipes to the destination to be heated.

Granby Board of Health Chairman Richard Bombardier says that these boilers operate differently from regular woodstoves and are more potent.

"The cutback in air going in, as heating demand decreases, cuts back on the amount of air going in to burn. It then backs down and begins to smolder. Ash and other particles then can be released into the air," said Bombardier.

Granby isn't alone in its action. Town governments in several communities throughout western Massachusetts have begun to create similar policies. Holyoke, South Hadley, and Chicopee have bans on the boilers altogether.

But the way in which these boilers operate is not the only concern. Materials being used as fuel that could be harmful to the public health also concern bombardier.

"People make a big investment and at times people can end up using cheaper fuel to save money," says Bombardier. He has heard accounts of people burning paper, garbage, and even pieces of old telephone polls spotted with preservatives.

Local area businesses however who sell these boilers, including one in Granby, has been affected by bans and similar policies regarding installation of these devices. Sean Lamorureux owns a landscaping company in town as well as a small business that sells outdoor wood boilers. According to Lamorureux, this has had an impact on business.

"It's pretty much whittled down to just about nothing," says Lamorureux. He believes that concerns prompting these new policies are exaggerated and have little solid proof.

"People need to make laws based on facts," says Lamourueux. He says that burning wood gives off a natural carbon output that can actually be good for the environment.

Bombardier says there has been minimal criticism. Only about four or five people in the community, according to the Board of Health already have installed systems.