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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 townships, cities, and counties (in unincorporated areas) have zoning or public health nuisance ordinances that allow them to respond to wood smoke complaints. If this issue is perceived by the city or county to be a broad or ongoing problem, the city or county may be interested in adopting an ordinance that specifically addresses wood burning appliances.

Many Minnesota local governments have adopted ordinances addressing solid fuel heating devices (SFHDs) such as outdoor wood furnaces (also known as boilers). Call your city or township to find out if there is an ordinance or code for these boilers. The MPCA has also compiled a list of many such ordinances and copies of them. Call your city hall first or call the MPCA staff (see below) to see if we know of ones in your area.

Some have adopted ordinances to restrict backyard recreational fires. For example, some cities participating in the Green Step Cities program have passed wood smoke related ordinances. If wood smoke is perceived by your local government to be a broad or ongoing problem, you may be interested in adopting an ordinance that specifically addresses wood burning.

The Wisconsin DNR offers a model ordinance for outdoor burning for local government, including outdoor wood-fired furnaces, open burning and refuse burning: HTML Content Open burning - Model ordinance for local governments External Link

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.

Model ordinances for solid fuel-fired heating devices (SFHDs)

MPCA developed model ordinances to address solid fuel-fired heating devices such as wood boilers or outdoor furnaces to assist local governments in addressing wood smoke complaints.  They were also developed in response to requests from organizations and officials for ordinances that are easier to understand and enforce.  Local governments can customize these model nuisance and zoning ordinances to meet your community’s needs.  See this information sheet and the two ordinances to learn more about these model ordinances

The township, city, or county 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.

3. MPCA staff can provide further information about wood-burning appliances, if needed. Contact Susanne Spitzer at 651-757-2752, or use the Citizen Complaint Form.

Additional resources

Health effects of wood smoke


Last modified on November 23, 2015 09:51