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Problems and complaints

What to do if you have a complaint about a neighbor’s wood-burning appliance

The MPCA has limited ability to respond to individual wood smoke complaints. We encourage you to follow this process if you are having health or nuisance problems caused by a neighbor's smoky appliance.

1. Give your neighbor a chance to be a ‘good’ neighbor.  Don’t get angry, most people are responsible and willing to help if asked in a polite non-threatening manner.

Smoking Chimney - Photo from Washington State Dept. of Ecology

Calmly tell your neighbor what the problem is. You may find that your neighbor is not aware that they are affecting your property or your health. Give them a copy of one of the following documents:

2. Contact your local officials if talking to your neighbors does not yield a satisfactory result. You may want to consider asking other neighbors for support if they are also concerned about emissions from wood stoves.  Some cities have nuisance ordinances that allow them to respond to wood smoke complaints.  If this issue is perceived by the city to be a broad or ongoing problem, the city may be interested in adopting an ordinance that specifically addresses wood burning appliances.

Several cities in Minnesota have adopted such ordinances, some specifically for outdoor wood furnaces or boilers. Look at the file below to see examples.

The city could consider a wide range of options such as restricting the locations of chimneys, banning certain kinds of appliances, and making requirements for chimney (stack) heights or set back distances from property boundaries.

An example of a model ordinance for outdoor burning for local government, including outdoor wood-fired furnaces, open burning and refuse burning, is on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.

The U.S. EPA and the group, Northeast States for Coordinated Use Management, have also put together a useful set of model rules and regulations for outdoor wood boilers.

3. MPCA staff can provide further information about wood-burning appliances, if needed. Contact Mike Nelson at 651-757-2122, or use the Citizen Complaint Form.

Additional resources

Health effects of wood smoke

Science

Last modified on November 05, 2013 13:26