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Letters: Burning Yard Waste
Where There's No Smoke, There's Ire
October 25, 2014

riental’s Town Hall has arranged for a dumpster to be set up near the water plant at Gilgo and Windward, as a place where Oriental residents can drop off their yard waste. Having the dumpster available for free drop offs of yard waste saves residents the trip to the county dump in Grantsboro, where one pays by the pound.

This pilot program has another aspect – a ban on outdoor burning of yard waste. Because the Town is offering residents a place to dispose of their leaves and branches, it has the option of banning outdoor burning of that waste. That’s what the Town Board voted to do recently – make outdoor burning off limits while this pilot program is in place. Some welcome the prospect of a smokeless autumn on their respiratory systems, but others are criticizing the burning ban.

I’m new to Oriental and wouldn’t dream of stirring up any old or new issues, but I’d like to praise the Town Board’s ban on outdoor burning. I can only hope it gets approval to go beyond just a pilot program.

So you might ask, why do you care, Steve?

It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together, do a little Internet research or just simply open your window and smell the smoke. But just in case you don’t own a computer, burning yard waste releases a number of harmful substances, including carbon monoxide, dioxins, ozone-forming chemicals, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. This puts certain members of the population, such as children and the elderly, at risk for respiratory ailments; and it can kill someone with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis or other cardiopulmonary illnesses.

But Steve, smoke from my fire always goes straight up affecting no one…

Ok, so let’s say that’s true, as your smoke rises and rainfall cleanses the air, washing smoke particles onto the ground. They are eventually filtered through the soil and into our water supply, our rivers, lakes and wetlands, where it creates an unhealthy habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Hydrocarbons and other pollutants often nurture the growth of green algae, which chokes out marine life…bye-bye fish.

Not to mention (but I will)…

Burning yard waste creates a risk of home fires. Just ask any volunteer fire fighter. Yard fires can get out of control quickly and are difficult to contain, especially on a breezy day. I for one don’t want to be the one who strikes the match that burns down my neighbor’s house.

Take care new neighbors and I hope to see you at the yard waste dumpster!

Steve Polk
Oriental, NC


I am concerned about the email sent earlier today to members of the Town of Oriental email-notification list in which it was stated that a “pilot program” on yard waste was now in place throughout the town and (in all capital letters further stated) that during the program: “No burning of yard waste is allowed in town limits.”

The relevant section of the Town Ordinance available online on the Town Hall website simply states that, “Yard waste consisting of leaves, tree branches or yard trimmings originating on the premises of private residences and burned on those premises may be burned provided that they are: (1) Burned in a sturdy metal container with a wire screen over the top to prevent embers from escaping, and at least fifty (50) feet from the nearest structure, or; (2) Burned in an open fire at least one hundred (100) feet from the nearest structure.

Certainly, the environmental impacts of the occasional backyard fire could be argued along with its potential adverse health benefits, but I hope I’m not alone is believing that the sensible regulations now in place in Oriental are about as far as government should go in attempting to help oversee the welfare and safety of community members too ignorant to look after themselves.

Even if town officials were to consider amending the current ordinance, surely they would allow public input, and, if needed, a transitional period for those of us whose fire pits currently are already filled with yard waste.

I’m further concerned that this latest email missive from Town Hall is part of a pattern along with its nonsensical curfew a few weeks back of disrespect or indifference by town management both for the individual liberties of citizens and the cultural differences individuals bring to our community.

At best, it shows a lack of understanding of the sensibilities at play in this community. In my view, town management is going well overboard with its Nanny State nonsense.

Tony Tharp

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