Methow Valley Clean Air Project
The Methow Valley Clean Air Project (MVCAP) was started in the winter of 2015 to address the issue of poor air quality during the wood-stove season (October-March). The goal of the project is to increase the number of ‘good air days’ defined by the Department of Ecology as ‘green days’ where the PM 2.5 (particulate matter in air such as smoke particles) is less than 50ug. The PM 2.5 level has been highly correlated with poor health. We will accomplish our goals through community education, communication about daily air quality and burn bans during the winter months, and developing alternatives to dirty wood-burning stoves and outdoor winter burning. The MVCAP is a partnership between the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council, the Lookout Coalition, the Methow Conservancy, the Department of Ecology and concerned Methow Valley citizens. This project will benefit everyone who breathes air in the Methow Valley. The people at highest risk are those with lung disease and those with non-certified wood stoves in their homes.
This year in preparation for the wood-stove season in the fall, the MVCAP received a grant from the Department of Ecology to develop an iPhone App and signage to alert people to air quality and burn bans during the winter months. The work for this grant has been recently completed and the “Methow Air” app is now available from the Apple App Store.
To install it on an iPhone or iPad: Launch the App Store icon on the iPhone or iPad search for “Methow Air” in the upper right corner. Click “GET” button, and enter your Apple ID password when prompted.
Our goal for the first year is to increase the number of clean air days by 25% by education and communication. The goals for the next two years is to explore grants to do a stove buy-back program. This program would aim to replace some of the smokiest stoves and/or stoves belonging to low income folks with more efficient sources of heat. You will be hearing more about this in the coming months. Any questions can be directed to Raleigh Bowden at (206) 227-2491.
April/May Update from the Methow Valley Clean Air Project
Now is the time to burn!
As witnessed by the columns of smoke rising from yards up and down the valley, April and May are good months to clean up natural vegetative debris by burning. MVCAP has put together this short reminder to help our valley community burn smart and safely!
Only burn dry, unprocessed, natural vegetation. All other materials, including garbage, lumber, cardboard, or construction debris is prohibited as they generate toxic smoke that can be especially harmful.
Only burn what you can safely put out. Burn pile size should not exceed 4’x4’x3’, and winds should be less than 15 mph. Piles must be attended at all times with tools and water to extinguish the fire when needed.
Under good environmental conditions in our valley, burning vegetation should be safe, and not unduly contribute to poor air quality. However, smoke from fires can certainly be unpleasant and aggravate those with sensitivities such as asthma or chronic lung disease. Please be considerate, and put out your fire if your neighbors are affected.
Good alternatives to burning are chipping and composting. Look for more information on these alternatives in upcoming MVCAP activities, and check out the link below.
Alternatives to outdoor burning:
Smoke complaint hotline:
March update from the Methow Valley Clean Air Project
Clean Home Heating: DON’T DAMP DOWN!
Methow Valley winters commonly involve inversions where a dense layer of cold air becomes trapped near the valley floor under a layer of warm air. The warm air acts very much like a lid, and our surrounding mountains a bowl with us trapped inside until the next storm system sweeps through. Throughout the winter, but especially during inversions, air quality can be very poor in the valley. This affects all of us, but can be outright dangerous to our neighbors, friends and family with conditions such as chronic lung disease or asthma. Air pollution makes all of us more susceptible to lower respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and COPD, and can trigger headaches and allergies. As if we weren’t having a hard enough time already trying to breathe while battling our winter cold and stuffy nose!
The primary source of winter air pollution in the valley is smoke from wood burning stoves. While many of us rely on wood as a sole or primary source for home heating, there are ways to burn smarter and significantly reduce the amount of pollutants leaving your chimney.
The right amount of air gives a hotter fire with less pollution:
- Build small, hot fires; keep the firebox about half-full
- Don’t “bank” the stove (i.e. fill full with wood and turn down air supply). This creates a smoky fire, wastes wood, and leads to creosote build-up in the chimney that creates a fire hazard and necessitates more frequent cleaning.
- Look at smoke coming out of the chimney after ten minutes; it should be nearly invisible or the fire may need more air.
- Burn only seasoned, dry wood (dried for at least 6 months)
- Dry wood provides 44% more heat with less pollution
- Ideally: split it, cover it, give it a year!
These strategies for tending a wood burning stove are more time-intensive, but ultimately can dramatically improve both indoor and outdoor air quality. Consider an extra blanket for your bed or a snuggle partner, to keep warm and breathe easy through our chilly nights.
We are very excited to have learned that the Conservation Alliance has provided the Methow Valley Citizens Council with a $28,000 grant to support the efforts of the Methow Headwaters Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to build on broad community support to make the upper headwaters of the Methow River “off-limits” to mining through a “mineral withdrawal” by the Secretary of the Interior and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
The Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor industry companies that distributes annual membership dues from its 190-member companies in the form of grants to community-based campaigns that protect habitat and areas used for outdoor recreation. You can find more information about the Conservation Alliance and its latest round of grants at its news page.
The Conservation Alliance grant will allow us to continue to pursue this grassroots campaign in the community and beyond, and to make sure the community’s voice is heard in this matter of critical importance to the valley, its economy and its future.
MVCC also recently received 2 grants from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington’s Methow Valley Fund. We received $2,000 towards updating communication tools, and $2,000 to directly support equipment and education for the Methow Valley Clean Air Project.
The Methow Valley Fund offers grants up to $5,000 to nonprofit organizations and agencies with programs that address community needs. The types of programs supported include equipment purchases, marketing outreach, school field trips and art classes, family health services, capacity building, music, art, theater and more.