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.
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:
- Use an EPA-certified wood stove
- Best burn practices (U.S. EPA)
- Burning Wood Cleaner
- Smoke gets in your lungs - Outdoor wood boilers in New York state
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.
- A Guide to Air Quality Regulations for Residential Biomass Combustion
- Strategies for Reducing Residential Wood Smoke — guidance for state, local and tribal governments
Health effects of wood smoke
- Guidance for Health Professionals, Wisconsin Division of Public Health
- Emissions from Outdoor Wood-Burning Residential Hot Water Furnaces, U.S. EPA
- US EPA, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
- Open Burning, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- Trash and Wood Burning, Wisconsin Department of Health
- Health Effects of Wood Smoke Fact Sheet, Washington State Department of Ecology
- In-Field Ambient Fine Particulate Monitoring of an Outdoor Wood Boiler: Public Health Concerns — Philip Johnson, 2006
- Effect of Airflow Setting on the Organic Composition of Woodheater Emissions — Timothy Jordan & Andrew Seen, 2005
- Emission characteristics of modern and old-type residential boilers fired with wood logs and wood pellets — Linda S. Johansson et al 2003
- EPA - Emissions from Outdoor Wood-Burning Residential Hot Water Furnaces — Valenti, Clayton
- EPA- Residential Wood Combustion Teschnology Review Volume 1. Technical Report
- Low emissions from wood burning in an ecolabelled residential boiler — Maria Olsson et al. 2005
- Model development for spatial variation of PM2.5 emissions from residential wood burning — Yong Q. Tiana et al. 2004
- NESCAUM Report on Outdoor Wood Furnaces, 2006
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon size distributions in aerosols from appliances of residential wood combustion as determined by direct thermal desorption-GC/MS - Michael D. Hays et al 2003
- Residential Fuelwood Assessment, State of Minnesota, 2007-2008 Heating Season — MPCA, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S Forest Service Northern Research Station, and Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association
- What is Particulate Matter? — American Lung Association