Washington State Department of Ecology - August 6, 2013

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Columbia County farmer fined for illegal burning

SPOKANE – Phillip Klein and Servi Dei Farms of Columbia County have been fined $10,000 by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) for burning wheat stubble without an approved agricultural burning permit.

Klein, owner and operator of Servi Dei Farms, burned a field of about 300 acres of wheat stubble before the required agricultural field burn permit had been issued in 2012. Klein applied for the permit, citing agricultural burning as the only reasonable means to reduce crop residue in his fields before fall planting

Inspectors verified that Klein had already burned his fields before need was verified, the field was inspected, permitted and a burn day assigned, according to standard procedures.

In Columbia County, Ecology delegates authority to issue agricultural burn permits to the County Board of Commissioners and the Columbia Conservation District.

Under state law, all agricultural burning must be approved so Ecology or its delegates can determine whether the burning is necessary and whether safer alternatives are reasonably available. After a burn permit is issued and paid for, Ecology determines which farmers can burn on a given day, depending on the direction of the wind, the ability for the smoke to disperse, and how many other people are legally burning that day so that people are not impacted by ground level smoke.

Burning agricultural residue creates smoke with small particles that can harm people’s health by entering the lungs, causing chemical and structural damage. Sometimes toxic materials “hitchhike” onto the particles and enter the lungs, causing even more health problems.

Ecology developed a process in the late1990s to manage and limit smoke from agriculture by using a reporting and permitting system. The Washington State Legislature passed the Washington Clean Air Act in 1991 that includes a section that addresses agricultural burning and requires a valid permit before burning.

Servi Dei Farms can appeal the penalty to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.

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Media Contact: Brook Beeler, communication manager, 509-329-3478; cell, 509-290-0855; brook.beeler@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Ecology’s Agricultural Burning webpage (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/aginfo/agricultural_homepage.htm)

Ecology’s Air Quality Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/airhome.html)

Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)