HONOLULU - The state Department of Health Clean Air Branch has officially extended its ban on backyard burning of yard and household trash from Oahu only to all the islands.
Open burning has been illegal on Oahu since 1973 at a time when the Neighbor Islands remained predominantly rural, explained Lisa Young, environmental health specialist. Since then, the Neighbor Islands have become more urban, creating a greater nuisance and hazard from open backyard burning, she indicated.
Open burning is a health and air pollution issue and creates a "significant fire hazard," said a Health Department news release about the burning ban released last week. The Health Department said that wood smoke can be particularly harmful to children under 18, older adults and people with diabetes, heart disease, asthma or other lung diseases.
The careless burning of materials such as plastics, paints, resins, used oils, herbicides, insecticides, poisonous plants and contaminated paper is a concern as well, the news release said.
"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," said the news release.
The penalty for violating the open burning rule is a fine of up to $10,000 per violation, per day.
The rule change really won't have a major impact on Maui, because Maui fire officials have been telling residents that there is no backyard open burning here, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga. He concurred with health officials that the practice is a fire risk and a health concern.
The amended rules, signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in January, allow only a few exceptions to the prohibition on open burning. One exception is agricultural burning that allows legitimate agricultural businesses to burn green waste after obtaining an Agricultural Burning Permit from the Health Department. The new amended rules enhance the permit application process and clarify the conditions under which certain categories of open burning are allowed.
Another exception allows attended fires for the cooking of food, but open burning for the heating of water for residential bathing purposes is prohibited.
Rule amendments also allow the Health Department to issue field citations to facilities that illegally operate air pollution sources without a valid air pollution control permit.
Other highlights of the rule changes:
* The repeal only stops people from heating water using open burning. The Health Department wants to encourage those who use fires to heat water for their baths to switch to cleaner burning fuels such as synthetic natural gas, propane or butane. Electricity also is an option. Anyone who relies on wood to heat bathwater may continue to do so using a wood furnace or an immersed or external wood-burning heater. These can be used as long as smoke is allowed as a vent through a smokestack.
* Open burning fires for the cooking of food are allowed. The new rules require that the fire be attended. Cooking includes grilling, making swill for pigs and using an imu or smokehouse.
* Bonfires are allowed only with the approval of the Health Department. Campfires and bonfires are illegal on all public beaches and parks, unless there is approval from the Department of Land and Natural Resources or the county.
For a copy of the amended rules go to the website gen.doh.hawaii.gov/sites/har/AdmRules1/11-60-1.pdf.