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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Public health backs down, for now, on wood-fired boilers

The Board of Health listens to Bill Porter, of rural Alburnett, defend wood-fired boilers at a public hearing Thursday at the Roosevelt Middle School auditorium. (Adam Belz/The Gazette)

The Board of Health listens to Bill Porter, of rural Alburnett, defend wood-fired boilers at a public hearing Thursday at the Roosevelt Middle School auditorium. (Adam Belz/The Gazette)


CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Board of Health backpedaled Thursday on a proposed ordinance that would ban most outdoor wood-fired boilers.

Under a barrage of criticism from about 80 people who showed up at Roosevelt Middle School to speak on behalf of the recently-controversial boilers, the Board of Health delayed action on the ordinance and promised to consider adding a grandfather clause.

The eventual Board of Health recommendation will go to the Board of Supervisors, probably in April. The Supervisors will make the final decision. Langston is on the Board of Health, and Oleson and Rogers were in attendance. Houser is on vacation and Barron was in Des Moines.

Owners of the boilers — public health officials estimate there are 200 in Linn County — have felt like a persecuted minority as the regulation has taken shape in recent weeks.

Several spoke at a Thursday public hearing, often to cheering and rounds of applause.

They said wood is a renewable resource and the boilers require an investment of thousands of dollars. They disagree with Public Health’s science and they think disputes between neighbors over smoke should be handled individually.

“The thing that scares me the most about this is just the intrusion of government into our lives,” said Steve Ciha, who lives near Central City. “If you’re going to do this, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to pay these people for their investments.”

Public Health officials have argued wood-fired boilers are heavy polluters, and could jeopardize the county’s compliance with Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards.

Owners of the boilers asked why their units have been singled out, while fireplaces and indoor wood stoves go ignored.

“The segregation of just wood-fired hydronic boilers is very unfair,” said Joey Meineke, who lives southeast of Cedar Rapids. “We have never had heard one complaint. We have asked our neighbors.”

Typically, wood-fired boilers cost at least $8,000, but save roughly $2,000 per year in heating bills. They are legal in Linn County, and several owners said they vetted them thoroughly before buying one.

Ward Clausen, who lives in rural Central City, said he gets wood from 60 acres of timber he owns. Fallen trees there need to be cleaned up regardless of whether he has a wood-fired boiler.

“I cut my own wood on my own property,” he said. “It was either put it through a wood stove, or burn it some place….I could make some efficient use out of it.”

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