New rules ban backyard burning

The state Department of Health Monday reported new rules that ban backyard burning throughout Hawai‘i.

“It’s in effect right now,” s Rod Yama, an environmental health specialist with the Kaua‘i District Health Office, said Monday.  

The penalties for violating the open backyard burning rules are a maximum fine of $10.000 per violation, per day, he said.

“Backyard barbecues, those are still permitted,” Yama added. “Open burning for cooking is still permitted.”

Open burning of yard waste and household trash, more popularly known as “backyard burning,” has been illegal on O‘ahu since 1973, but the new rules from the state agency’s Clean Air Branch prohibit backyard burning on all the state’s islands.

“Open burning creates an unnecessary nuisance and possible health risk due to the smoke and air pollution it produces. The practice also creates a significant fire hazard,” states a news release from the agency. “With the greater availability of alternative means of waste disposal such as improved trash services, recycling and composting on all islands, backyard burning is no longer a necessity.”

The few exceptions to the prohibition include allowing an agricultural business to burn green wastes after obtaining an agricultural burning permit from the Department of Health. Another exception allows attended fires for the cooking of food.

However, open burning to heat water for residential bathing purposes is prohibited, the agency states.

So what can Kaua‘i residents do with their green wastes?

Yama said residents can compost smaller portions of green wastes or take their wastes to a green waste transfer station on the island for disposal.

“One also can leave it on the property and let it decay naturally, but that could lead to providing habitats for rodents, for example,” he said.

“The last one, which has occurred on some occasions, is to bury the green waste. But there would be land use issues,” Yama said. “For example, one could not build over it because, as the waste decays, the ground sinks.”

Yama said the open burning rules will be enforced by the Kaua‘i Police Department, and residents who want to report open backyard burning can call the non-emergency number at 241-1711.

Yama said residents with questions can call him at 241-3323 or email rodney.yama@doh.hawaii.gov.

A copy of the amended Health Department rules can be viewed online at http://gen.doh.hawaii.gov/sites/har/AdmRules1/11-60-1.pdf.

For additional information on the agency’s Clean Air Branch, visit http://hawaii.gov/health/environmental/air/cab/index.html. 

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