DESPITE the very best efforts of Bathurst Regional Council, it appears efforts to reduce local air pollution from smoky fireplaces is proving an impossible battle to win.
The number of new wood heaters being installed in existing or new houses far outnumbers those being removed.
Although new wood heaters are much cleaner burning than older styles, the ongoing pressures from energy prices means that the trend is unlikely to change and wood smoke pollution will continue to be an issue for councils.
That’s the sad story for residents, according to a recent report to Bathurst Regional Council on the 2014 Wood Smoke Reduction Program (WSRP).
It notes that in January 2014, council was successful in receiving $40,944 in grant funding from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to run the program.
“Funding allowed a part-time project officer to be employed to coordinate the program 10 hours a week for six months, using education, enforcement and cash incentive tools,” the report stated.
Council had previously received EPA funding to undertake an education, compliance and rebate program in 2004 and 2013.
“Council has been offering a wood heater rebate program annually since 2007. The 2014 grant funding allowed council to continue previous efforts to help residents become aware of the health impacts of wood smoke, sustainable firewood collection, correct operation of wood heaters and provide cash incentives for those wishing to replace their old wood heater with cleaner forms of heating.
“Four community workshops were also held (Eglinton, Perthville, Bathurst CBD and Raglan) to convey information to the public about smarter wood heater use, with 28 residents attending in total.
“A primary school colouring in competition was held to increase awareness of Ol’ Smoky and Suzie the Sugar Glider to younger generations.”
The report also notes the 2014 enforcement program was affected by an increased number of foggy days during early morning surveys.
“Notwithstanding this, 394 chimneys were surveyed, with 121 or 30 per cent being identified emitting excessive smoke and 48 letterbox flyers issued to owners of poorly operated wood fires to increase awareness about better heater operation,” the report stated.
“Though the program was considered largely successful, due to the pressures from increasing gas and electricity prices, residents are more frequently looking to wood heaters as a form of domestic heating.
“Due to the increased uptake of new woodheaters, the NSW EPA has indicated that the funding into the future will not continue in its current guise.”