Ah, the soporific heat of the wood stove or the coziness of a fireplace. But these comforts come with a drawback: smoke and soot. And a recent study by a nonprofit research and advocacy group says that Worcester County experiences the worst of it.
“It’s crazy high, it’s so high, I was amazed when I saw that,” said Mary S. Booth, founder and director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, on the organization’s finding that Worcester County had more air pollution from residential wood burning than any other county in New England. It was the eighth highest county in the country, in fact, according to the analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory data.
But government agencies tasked with monitoring air pollution, as well as wood-stove industry representatives, highlighted that the data are based on estimates from census data on wood burning, not on emissions measurements. The latter show that Worcester County and all of Massachusetts meet annual and 24-hour standards for PM2.5 (particle matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) the fine particle pollution of most concern in wood smoke.
“The real issue for us is, is there an actual air-quality problem based on these emissions, and the answer to that is no,” said Glenn Keith, deputy director in the Division of Air and Climate Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Mr. Keith said that road dust from paved and unpaved roads contributes more PM2.5 emissions than residential wood burning, according to the data. “We do have a statewide network of air-monitoring stations and we measure PM2.5 in the air and then we compare it to the EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM2.5. And we do attain all the standards.”
The EPA said that on a per-capita basis, all counties in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire but one have higher residential wood-burning…