ELIZABETHTOWN - As the Elizabethtown Town Board considers a new law that would eventually eliminate outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) from the zoned hamlet, people on both sides of the issue took the opportunity to voice their opinions at a Jan. 22 public hearing.
Fourteen residents attended the meeting along with town council members, who listened intently to a wide range of views on the subject.
The majority of those present praised the law, which not only bans new OWBs from being added inside the hamlet, but requires that existing boilers be removed within three years. In the meantime, those boilers must meet certain guidelines or receive fines.
Dr. Charles Moisan, the town's health officer, spoke in strong favor of the law, noting the health risks outdoor wood boilers can pose for village residents.
"With three in the town, there's probably not a huge problem," said Moisan, "but if we had 15 of them it would cause a major health issue."
Moisan explained that wood boiler smoke, unregulated by government standards, contains fine particulate matter, which, over time, can cause serious respiratory ailments. The topographic layout of the town would prevent that smoke from dissipating well, he said.
"People in immediate danger are young people, older people, and people with allergies and sensitivity to smoke," he said.
Still, some questioned if newer "phase two" boilers that burn more efficiently might be acceptable. Moisan admitted that he was unfamiliar with the technology of the newer boilers, but said that the low-rising smoke would still be a concern.
"To take a broad brush and say all outdoor wood boilers are banned is wrong," said Bill Hubschman.
Others opposed the law for its three-year phase-out of pre-existing boilers. Dennis Aubin, the town's highway supervisor, owns an OWB inside the village, which would have to be removed if the proposed law is enacted.
"I understand they've got to do something to keep there from being more," said Aubin, "but I'm for what I've got to keep."
Town councilman Mike McGinn also stated his opposition to removing existing furnaces.
"These people worked hard for that money," said McGinn. "They made an investment and they should be able to keep it."
McGinn instead proposed a policy where boilers would be removed if they repeatedly violated burning regulations or received complaints from neighboring residents.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Noel Merrihew said it was the proposal regarding pre-existing boilers that the board was most struggling with.
"I think it's important for the public to understand that all wood boilers were installed under the regulations that existed at the time," said Merrihew.
No decision was made at the public hearing. Merrihew said the board would address the issue at its next board meeting on Feb. 17.