Newton County is among 54 Georgia counties that will be subject to a ban on open burning from May 1 to Sept. 30.
The open-burning ban prohibits citizens and businesses from burning yard and land-clearing debris.
This rule is in addition to the year-round state ban on the burning of household garbage. The ban originally began in 1996 with the 13-county metro Atlanta area and has been in effect for the current area since 2005.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) reminds citizens that these rules are to protect the public's health.
Besides the obvious effects of smoke on the human body such as watery eyes, smoke from fires contains chemicals and pollutants that negatively impact a person's health. Burning yard waste releases nitrogen oxides and particle pollution into the air. Both pollutants contribute to lung and heart disease.
People, particularly children, are more apt to be outdoors during May through September. It is during this time that ozone and particle pollution are generally higher than the other parts of year.
Particle pollution is made up of extremely small particles that can increase the risk of a heart attack.
In the summer, nitrogen oxides combine with fumes from fuels, paints and vegetation to form ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone can cause inflammation to the lungs. Burning household garbage, which is banned year-round in Georgia, releases even more dangerous pollution.
However, EPD's monitoring of data shows that the air quality in Georgia is improving.
"We are working hard to improve air quality in Georgia," says James Capp, Georgia EPD air protection branch chief. "This success is confirmation that the clean air programs we have in place in Georgia, including the open burning ban, are working."
The Clean Air Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to periodically review the current air quality standards to ensure that they are still protective of public health. Last fall, EPD announced that they would move forward with implementation of a more stringent standard for ground level ozone. All areas of the state are currently in compliance with this standard except for Atlanta. Therefore, rules such as the open burning ban are just as important as ever for ensuring that Georgians have clean air to breathe. Some actions, such as campfires and agricultural activities, are exempt.
Newton County residents can access more information on the open burning ban by going to EPD's Air Protection Branch website at georgiaair.org and clicking on the open burning flame or by calling their local EPD district office, located in Athens, at (706) 369-6376.
Small businesses can obtain help and information by calling EPD's Small Business Environmental Assistance Program toll-free at 1 (877) 427-6255.
For more information about alternatives to burning such as composting and chipping, please call Joe Dunlop at the Department of Community Affairs at (404) 679-4940 or email him at email@example.com. You may also access a map of Georgia composing operations at http://www.gaepd.org/Documents/swp_map02.html.
Debris can also be hauled to a commercial processing/grinding/composting operation or to an inert or construction and demolition landfill. For a list of landfills in your area, please call EPD's Solid Waste Management Program at (404) 362-2692.