COPLEY TWP.: Copley Township is one of the few communities in the five-county area without scheduled leaf pickups.
As a result, dousing burning piles of yard waste has become a regular fall chore for Copley firefighters.
“It happens all the time,” Chief Michael Benson said in a recent interview. His firefighters have the authority to order burning to stop.
Abuse of open-burning laws are reported to the Regional Air Quality Management Authority, which enforces clean-air standards.
Fires are permitted to dispose of dried agricultural waste, but require a permit. A pyre to dispose of tree stumps and trimmings is limited in size to 20 feet across and to a height of 10 feet. Neither burn may include a neighbor’s waste.
“Your neighbors can’t bring theirs over and add it to yours,” said Debbie Wallen, an environmental specialist for the Regional Air Quality Management Authority.
Both types of burning also are regulated by what she described as the 1,000-foot rule — the distance a cleared burn site must be from buildings, roads and airports.
“You have to have the land for [outdoor burning], and a lot of people don’t,” Wallen said.
Fines for residential violations can go as high as $1,000 per incident, Wallen said from the authority’s downtown Akron office.
The severity is determined by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in Columbus. The agency contracts with the authority to monitor air quality in Summit, Portage and Medina counties.
On its website, the Ohio EPA notes that burning leaves produce particulate matter and hydrocarbons that contain a number of toxic, irritating and carcinogenic compounds. Leaf smoke also contains carbon monoxide.
The EPA recommends that homeowners compost their leaves, which then can be used as a mulch in flower beds and around shrubs or added to the garden.
The agency offers a free publication that describes how to begin a backyard compost pile. Residents can call a toll-free hot line at 800-424-9346 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for information.
Bruce Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.