Open burning restrictions in New Castle and Kent counties are in effect from June 1 to August 31. During this time open burning in New Castle and Kent counties is restricted to fires for food preparation, ceremonial and recreational purposes.
In April 2004, Sussex County, along with New Castle and Kent Counties, was officially designated by the U.S. EPA as being in non-attainment of the 8-hour ground-level ozone standard, based on high ozone readings at monitors within the county. In advance of a regulatory change to include Sussex County in the summertime burn ban, the department is asking residents of Sussex County to refrain from burning brush this summer.
Burning of cut or fallen branches, limbs, or shrubbery from a residence is allowed throughout the state from September to May except when the state fire marshal issues a ban on all outdoor burning. Burning of leaves and any refuse (including but not limited to old lumber, trash or garbage, grass and tree stumps is illegal statewide and year-round).
Kurt Reuther, chief of the DNREC’s enforcement section, warned that “Environmental Protection Officers are on the lookout for violators and will be citing those performing illegal open burning activities. Penalties range from $50 to $500 in fines, plus a criminal record.” To report illegal open burning, call the 24-hour hotline at (800) 662-8802. Cellular phone users can call this toll free number: #DNR.
Public health concerns are the reason for the burning restriction. Open burning produces smoke and toxic chemicals in the air we breathe. It also contributes to the formation of smog (ground-level ozone and fine particles), which can trigger asthma attacks, other respiratory problems and eye irritation, and contributes to acid rain that causes fish kills, plant and property damage. Rain eventually washes these toxic chemicals onto our land and into our waterways.
Alternatives to open burning include recycling, taking non-recyclable trash to a licensed landfill for disposal and composting. It is easy to compost leaves, yard trimmings and certain food scraps. When properly composted, these wastes can be turned into natural soil additives for use on lawns and gardens, and for use as potting soil for house plants.
For further information on composting, contact the Mid-Atlantic Composting Association at (302) 422-4544, or toll free at (800) 355-4544.
For a copy of “The Burning Question,” a pamphlet outlining the open burning regulations, or a 15-minute video titled “The Adventures of Proton Dan” for presentation to your local community, contact the Air Quality Management Section, 156 South State Street, Dover, DE 19901, or by phone at (302) 739-9402.