It’s a good thing Lisa Isaacs, Administrator of the Clean Air Projects Program (CAPP), noticed that one of the new stoves installed to replace an uncertified stove in a Mammoth Lakes home as part of a larger wood stove replacement program was going into a house that had been sold since 1990.
This matters because, as Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade explained to the Town Council on Wednesday night, Aug. 7, that uncertified stove should have already been replaced when the house was sold, according to Town rules and regulations.
Schade and Isaacs did some investigating, and found that the Town hadn’t been enforcing these rules and regulations since 2006.
“You’ve taken on the responsibility to enforce the regulations,” Schade said to Council. “I can write you tickets if you want. I have no intention of doing that, but you need to enforce.”
These rules and regulations regarding replacement of uncertified wood stoves with the sale of a house are in place because of Mammoth’s past struggles with air quality, Schade said.
Prior to 1990, emissions from wood burning stoves in the winter could create particulate matter (PM10) emissions similar to those experienced over the past two and a half weeks of the Aspen Fire. These emissions regularly exceeded Federal Air Quality Standards.
Since the rules and regulations first went into place, said Schade, “We’ve seen no exceedences of the Federal Air Standard.” However, he went on, Mammoth still regularly exceeds State Air Quality Standards. In fact, the frequency with which Mammoth exceeds these standards puts it in competition with Victorville.
“I don’t think you want to say, ‘Come to Mammoth, our air is as good as Victorville,’” Schade said.
His discovery that Mammoth has not been enforcing its wood stove rules and regulations helped to explain why the Town might continue to exceed these standards, when 90% of uncertified stoves should have been replaced by this time. Instead, Schade said, that number might be closer to 60%. The air quality in Mammoth is still much better than it used to be, down from a 160 microgram 24-hour average in the 1990s to about 50-60 microgram 24-hour average. But Schade said GBUAPCD has been “scratching our heads over why the air quality isn’t better.”
Schade offered Lisa Isaacs’ services to help collect and analyze data with regards to which houses still needed to comply with the wood stove rules and regulations. “Thank you for the generous offer,” said Council member John Eastman.
As Isaacs reported later in the presentation, changing just a few of the holdover uncertified stoves would have a significant impact on air quality in Mammoth. Thus far, the CAPP wood stove replacement program has replaced 27 stoves in Mammoth for free. This change will reduce 1,000 pounds of air pollution annually, Isaacs said.
The CAPP wood stove program has replaced a total of 470 stoves in the Tri-County area, for a reduction of 8.5 tons of air pollution per year, Isaacs added.
Neither Eastman nor the other Council members had much to say about Schade’s presentation. Instead, Eastman wondered whether agencies fighting the Aspen Fire take GBUAPCD input.
“Five years ago, I’d answer no,” said Schade, noting that a success in terms of fire fighting for Westside agencies used to be directing the smoke to the Eastside. “For about the last five years, we’ve really been trying to make inroads with them,” he said, “letting them know that there are people over here; not a lot of us, but we still breathe air and deserve to breathe clean air.”