Heating with wood: Two Gatineau residents ask council for stricter rules
It is well known, wood heating is very appreciated for its warm and friendly character. We like to bask in front of a fireplace while contemplating the glow of the dancing flame and listening to the crackling of the logs. Although this type of heating has many attractions, it also poses many environmental and health risks.
It is estimated that nearly one million Quebec households have a wood-burning appliance, including 30,000 in Gatineau. Wood heating is a major source of atmospheric contaminants, including carbon monoxide, fine particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In a residential neighbourhood where wood-burning is widespread, exposure to contaminants from chimney smoke can adversely affect the health of residents, especially young children, the elderly, and people with respiratory or cardiac problems. The fine particles produced by burning wood are very small in diameter, less than 2.5 micrometers, allowing them to penetrate deep into the respiratory tract and interfere with their functioning. According to Environment Canada, a single uncertified wood stove emits as many fine particles into the atmosphere in nine hours as a certified stove operating for 60 hours, or as much as a mid-size car travelling 18,000 km. In Quebec, residential wood heating is the main source of fine particle emissions from human activities. The effect on air quality is particularly noticeable on weekend evenings in winter. During these evenings, the concentration of particulate matter in the air increases rapidly and can easily double in a few hours. Remember, never burn garbage, plastic, cardboard or green, painted or treated wood in a furnace.
At the municipal council meeting on February 18, two residents, Zoe and Yan Venne, raised the issue during the public question period and asked the mayor if the City of Gatineau intends to ban wood heating (Montreal already bans it; Quebec City and Lévis should follow suit in a few years). The mayor reiterated that the City is extremely committed to the environment. He said that the city is working on an ambitious plan to combat and adapt to climate change, which will be tabled in early 2021. Councillor Mike Duggan was extremely receptive to the comments of both speakers. He proposed to study the possibility of authorizing pellet stoves and fireplaces in the event that the City of Gatineau imposes restrictions on wood stoves. Pellet stoves provide cleaner and more controlled combustion, which generally produces fewer polluting emissions than conventional wood-burning appliances.
Residents who choose a wood-burning appliance can look for a fireplace or stove certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These appliances emit up to 95% fewer particles and use up to 20% less fuel than conventional models. Although certified appliances are a significant improvement over older models, the use of wood still produces more air emissions in the form of fine particles than other heating fuels, such as oil and gas.
For those thinking of getting rid of wood heating appliance, several financial assistance programs can help pay for renovation work and reducing energy consumption. (Translation)