Leaf burning rules ‘important’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 1999

From staff reports

While most communities in Freeborn County have banned leaf burning, opting to instead provide compost sites, Albert Lea continues to allow the disposal method.

Saturday, October 30, 1999

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While most communities in Freeborn County have banned leaf burning, opting to instead provide compost sites, Albert Lea continues to allow the disposal method.

But is it healthy?

That may depend upon whether people follow the rules when burning, officials say.

Smoke from burning leaves can pose a hazard for individuals with certain health conditions, according to Freeborn County Public Health. The department suggests that those with asthma, allergies, pneumonia and other respiratory conditions stay inside with their air conditioners on during burning times. Public awareness of, and compliance with allowed burning times helps, public health workers say.

Public health has received no complaints in connection with burning, however.

Likewise, Solid Waste Officer Randy Tuchtenhagen of Environmental Services has received no complaints.

Tuchtenhagen burns leaves himself, and adds that it’s OK as long as people follow the rules. In fact, he says the future of leaf burning in Albert Lea may depend upon it.

People who burn items such as furniture, boxes or plastic with their leaves may ruin it for everyone else, he said.

Burning these items can produce clouds of arsenic; burning plastic, for example, produces dioxin, a carcinogen.

“I like to burn myself. It’s fun to do, and smells nice,” he said. “But because of a few irresponsible people, we’re all banned from doing things.”

If done correctly, burning leaves is an appropriate disposal method, he said.

“There are some benefits. The ash could be considered a soil amenity under certain conditions,” he said.

However, one alternative to leaf burning is composting in one’s backyard. Tuchtenhagen’s office on the first floor of the old portion of the courthouse has a library of information about composting that people can check out. Another alternative is mulching.

Here’s another look at the legal leaf burning times in the city:

According to Section 30-2 of the City Code, the burning of leaves on private property is permitted under the following conditions:

First, such burning of leaves will only be permitted on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the last full week of October and the first two weeks in November.

Thus, the remaining dates for leaf burning: Nov. 2, Nov. 4, Nov. 6, Nov. 9, Nov. 11, and Nov. 13.

Second, a responsible person shall be in constant attendance until the fire is completely extinguished.

Third, burning will only be allowed between the hours of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. All fires are to be extinguished by 7 p.m.

Fourth, such fires shall not be less than 25 feet from any structure, wood fence, hedge or bush and no less than five feet from any property line. (Also, consideration should be made for wind conditions, a neighbor’s allergies, or clothing being hung outside to dry.)

Fifth, the burning of leaves is prohibited on city streets, boulevards, lake shores or any public property by private citizens.

Sixth, no open burning of leaves shall take place during an air pollution alert warning or emergency declared by the state environmental pollution agency.

Seventh, the city manager may temporarily discontinue burning during the period due to unsafe conditions (such as excessive dryness, etc.).

This part of the City Code pertains only to the burning of leaves. Any burning of rubbish, trash or other material is prohibited.

As an alternative to burning, leaves can be taken to the Albert Lea Transfer Station, located northwest of the city near the Bath Road, and deposited on the compost pile at no charge.

Hours at the Transfer Station, effective from Oct. 18 to Nov. 27 are: Monday, Wednesday and Friday – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, Noon to 5:30 p.m.; and Saturdays – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.