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Bloomfield Hills prohibits burning of yard waste

By Lisa Brody


After examining other local communities' policies toward outside burning of leaves, waste and refuse and with an eye toward environmental concerns, at their meeting on Tuesday, May 10, Bloomfield Hills City Commissioners unanimously approved eliminating residential burning practices.


However, commissioners determined they would still allow homeowners to have fire pits on their property.


Director of Public Safety Chief Noel Clason first provided commissioners with background on the use of burning practices in the city.


“Burning refuse and natural waste such as leaves, grass and wood has been an option to this community since it was established in 1932,” Clason said. “It has been a topic of debate during the city's history as well,” noting he found concerns dating back to 1956 as he researched the topic. The first time any restrictions were made was in 1991, with a permit and within a 24-hour time period, based on weather.


“Composting and recycling was also made available at the same time,” he noted.


In 2019, 80 burn pit permits were issued at 26 different addresses; in 2020, 62 burn pit permits were issued at 30 different addresses; in 2021, 54 burn pit permits were issued at 24 different addresses; and so far in 2022, Clason said, 13 burn pit permits have been issued at nine different addresses. During that period, he said, there were 10 known complaints.


In other local communities, Royal Oak and Bloomfield Township do not permit any open burning of yard waste and refuse, Clason reported. Birmingham permits it with approval of the fire marshal, from sunrise to 4:30 p.m. Franklin and Bingham Farms allow it, 25-feet from any structure, sunrise to sunset. In Auburn Hills, there are limits and restrictions during spring and fall. In Troy, a small fire is permitted 25-feet from a structure.


Clason said he also spoke with GFL, the city's waste disposal provider, which confirmed that residents have the option to have refuse and yard waste picked up every week with their trash.


“All this waste is composted and recycled,” he said.


“Finally, I did research through the EPA regarding the hazards to health from inhalation of smoke derived from burning yard waste and refuse,” Clason said. “Burning wood does create a particulate matter that creates toxic air pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic hydrocarbons. These are hazardous to everyone but especially older adults, people with lung disease and children due to their ongoing development.”


“There are a lot of health problems from open burning. Since the city offers yard waste pick up, the city commission decided to eliminate the burning practice for everyone's health and safety, but to continue allowing for the use of fire pits within the city,” said city manager David Hendrickson.


Staff has been instructed to create a new ordinance to present to the commission.

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