Hoosiers can be exposed to toxins in their air, water, soil, or from products.
Are you looking for a reference to help you determine who to contact regarding an issue with toxic pollution you or your community is experiencing? Please check into this report from the Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health: Investigating Environmental Contamination: A Guide for Communities. This report provides technical assistance, telephone consultations, and training by experts on environmental health issues.
HEC is currently working with a group in Logansport to stop a steel waste processing facility from going in three miles from their downtown. We were successful in blocking the same company from building a facility in Muncie in 2019.
OWBs cause fuel to burn incompletely, or smolder, which results in thick smoke and potentially high particulate matter emissions.
HEC has, in recent years, focused on toxic threats from Outdoor Wood Boiler (OWB) smoke. An OWB is a technology that looks, from the outside, like a small metal shed with a smokestack 8 to 10 feet above ground level. Inside, wood is burned to boil water that supplies heat through water pipes. Typically an OWB would be located some distance from a house and run water pipes to transfer heat for both space and water heating.
The EPA estimates that most OWBs have only a 30 to 50 percent combustion efficiency. OWBs can be especially a problem if an OWB has a small smokestack height and/or a short distance from a neighboring property.
OWBs’ basic design causes fuel to burn incompletely, or smolder, resulting in thick smoke and potentially high air pollution emissions. Due to OWBs’ shorter smokestacks, smoke and fumes are often poorly dispersed, resulting in a high concentration of thick black smoke that can be hazardous to neighbors. Wood smoke contains a number of organic compounds that are known carcinogens, and high exposure may raise the risk of chronic lung disease and lung cancer. Wood smoke also interferes with normal lung development in infants and children, and increases the risk of asthma and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Operating year round, a single OWB can emit 1.55 tons of matter such as dust and soot, which is around the same amount as 50 diesel trucks. Even more alarming, OWBs are only supposed to be powered by dry wood, but some users burn treated lumber, painted wood, cardboard, and trash, which can be especially dangerous to the health of neighbors.
homes across Indiana heat their homes and water using an Outdoor Wood Boiler.
Outdoor Wood Boilers emit
times more cancer-causing particles than normal wood stoves.
Outdoor Wood Boilers emit
times more cancer-causing particles than natural gas furnaces.
Toxic Exposure Reduction
Here are a few examples of the legal and advocacy work HEC has done to reduce exposure to toxic air and water for Hoosiers.
Little Calumet River Contamination
HEC is working to monitor and hold accountable habitual polluters in Indiana. Read our update on the recent ArcelorMittal discharge of cyanide and ammonia and consider taking action to help improve communication and prevention of incidents like these.
VIM Recycling Victory
State Representative Craig Fry contacted LEAF (now HEC) in July 2008 seeking help for a residential community in his district. The community, located in Elkhart, Ind., was situated next to a mobile home recycling plant known as VIM Recycling, Inc.
Learn more about HEC”s VIM Recycling legal victory.
Outdoor Wood Boilers
HEC and our Indiana public interest colleagues partnered with the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest to launch an innovative program that incentivized the replacement of old OWBs with clean, renewable energy. It is, to our knowledge, the first such program in the country. Media interest in this innovative program was significant, as seen by reports by WFYI, WFPL and more. This program has now wrapped up, though we still encourage residents to seek alternative energy options.
A Victory in Rush County
The Bowlings had lived at their home outside Rushville, Indiana, for nearly twenty years when their neighbors installed an OWB 60 feet away. The smoke was so thick and sharp that it would seep through the walls of the Bowlings’ house like a sponge.
Learn more about how HEC helped protect a family in Rush County.
How to Make a Difference
Get Behind Legislative Efforts
Be on the watch for legislation that could block future efforts to amend Indiana’s relatively weak Outdoor Wood Boiler policy.
Support Legal Action
Donate now to support legal action that helps protect people who suffer from outdoor wood boiler smoke and other toxic exposure.
Replace Your OWB with Clean, Renewable Energy
If you own an Outdoor Wood Boiler and are interested in replacing it with something that would be healthier for you, your family, and your neighbors, please contact one of our solar HEC Green Business members, who can do an estimate of the costs of a solar heater system, and the federal incentives available.