By Wendy Post

OWEGO, N.Y. - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) officials in Tioga County, N.Y. reported recently that a proposal by the state environmental board to regulate open burning throughout New York State has met with a final approval at the state level.

Although local officials in Tioga County, N.Y. confirmed that the regulation, which will ban open burning throughout New York State, was approved, they declined to comment until a release is formally issued later this week out of the NYS DEC office.

The regulation to ban open burning, which received approval last week according to local officials, will go into effect on Oct. 15, 2009 in all counties throughout the state.

And although the NYS DEC has not issued a formal statement regarding the new law, other news agencies, like the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, have already published information regarding the statewide open burning ban, and the reasons why the regulation was put into effect as law.

According to a Sept. 9, 2009 article, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise quoted NYS DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino as stating that open burning of residential waste in any city, village, or in any town with a population of 20,000 or more has been prohibited since 1972. "The new regulation," Severino stated in the story, "eliminates the exemption for about 850 small, rural towns. It includes exceptions for small campfires, and cooking fires, ceremonial fires and certain types of agricultural waste burning."

According to a report on Poststar.com regarding the ban, discussions about the law began last year as DEC officials sought to cut back on air pollution they said was being caused by the burning of waste.

They also reported that garbage torched in a burn barrel gives off 17 times as much dioxin and 40 times as much ash as a permitted incinerator, where ash and pollutants are filtered.

Beyond air quality, officials said the ban would help prevent forest fires caused by burning of yard waste.

DEC officials received about 1,800 public comments, according to the Poststar.com report, after they initially floated the idea of banning all kinds of outdoor burning, including some comments from residents who said a ban would create more litter and make it harder to dispose of waste.

To help, the DEC has included exceptions to allow campfires, cooking, on-site burning of agricultural waste, flag disposal and celebratory or ceremonial bonfires.

It was also reported that the DEC also decided to allow the burning of small brush - defined as anything less than 8 feet in length and 6 inches around - for 10 months of the year, between May 15 and March 15.

Still, some area residents say they expect people might be grumbling. Lois Waite, owner of a 200-plus acre farm with her husband Bud in Tioga County, lives at one of the highest elevations in the county, and the burning does not bother her.

"We have people burning around us all the time," said Lois, "and we're not bothered." But Lois did note that those who are accustomed to burning, especially on the farms, might not be to happy with the new law.

The new regulations will be enforced on a "case by case" basis, according to DEC comment posted on the Poststar.com, and can be pursued either criminally or civilly. The report further noted that a first-time offense carries a potential fine between $375 and $15,000.

More details regarding the statewide ban on open burning in New York will be reported upon the release of an official statement from the NYS DEC, which is anticipated by the end of the week.