Council looking at bylaw to address nuisance smoke from solid fuel burning appliances


By Karen Fallon

According to several councilors, at the Sept. 25 meeting, the town needs to enact a bylaw to address nuisance smoke from solid fuel burning appliances.

Having raised the issue in June, administration was asked to contact the town’s solicitor on the viability of such a bylaw and get in touch with the Town of Oakville in respect to its nuisance bylaw.

Comments made by solicitor Ed Posliff, regarding the enforceability of such a bylaw, accompanied a recent report by Stephen Brown, chief building official for the town.

“The power to regulate a public nuisance is broader. It can be the subject of both abuse and challenge for vagueness,” notes the solicitor in the correspondence. “For that reason, the draft by-law imposes a requirement that more than one complaint be received in respect of an emission in order that the town is not placed in the middle of a fight between neighbours.”

Brown says that the town has had only three written complaints in the past 18 years from residents regarding wood burning stoves.

A draft by-law, modeled on one by the Town of Oakville, noted Brown in his report, identified a number of difficulties in relation to the regulation and/or prohibition by the Town of solid fuel burning appliances.

“As the burning of wood, seasoned, untreated and dry, is a legal occurrence which should not result in a noxious emission, except for a particularly susceptible individual, the Town should not be either regulating or prohibiting that activity,” writes Posliff.

The installation of solid fuel burning appliances is regulated through the Ontario Building Code and CSA standards and the installation has to be certified by a Wood Energy Technology Transfer agency.

Although municipalities have no authority over amendments to the Ontario Building Code, they can via bylaw 106 regulate building permit fees, mandatory inspection, permit submissions, etc.

Councillor Bart DiPasquale referred to a local case involving a civil action between two neighbours over smoke emissions from a wood burning stove that went on for eight years.

“I am not looking at heavy enforcement or anything like that,” said DiPasquale. “If we ever have another situation like this what are we going to do?” he asked.

Brown says if an installation of such an appliance was not in accordance with the Ontario Building Code measures would be taken to bring it up to standards in accordance with the OBC and the complainants would be advised to contact the MOE in respect to emissions.

“I talked to the Ministry of the Environment this morning and they said they wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole,” said DiPasquale. “It is dumped on the municipalities and they really pushed the fact that we should be regulated with a bylaw.”

Councillor Carolyn Davies says as a health provider she “totally” understands the importance of clean lungs.

“What we are really dealing with in my view is people burning things they shouldn’t be burning,” said Davies. “I would rather see a really good educational program because I think that 90 per cent of people want to do the right thing.”

Diane Pouget says that second-hand smoke is dangerous to the health of individuals, whether that comes from cigarettes or emissions from other substances including those put in wood burning appliances.

“I just think we have to take a really close look at this,” said Pouget. “I think education would be a factor but I would also like to see us look at the Oakville bylaw and see if it is something we can use as a council.”

Brown says after talking with the chief building official in Oakville he said that the municipality had not had a successful prosecution of their nuisance bylaw in respect to smoke.

In the past five years, says Brown, the town has issued one permit for a wood stove and in the past ten years, in new houses, only a handful of permits for fireplaces.

For homes with such appliances the insurance industry has stringent regulations regarding the installation, which has to be inspected by a certified WETT – Wood Energy Transfer Technology Group, before coverage can be obtained.

“They will not insure your house if it doesn’t meet those requirement,” said Brown.

Councillor John Sutton says there are two questions to be asked. What is the town trying to govern when it comes to nuisance smoke – the farmer burning brush, people with campfires, a residential neighbor’s chimenea. And, how will it be governed  if put into a bylaw.

Davies noted that such a bylaw would only regulate indoor wood burning appliances as outdoor burns are regulated under the Fire Marshal’s Office and the fire department.

Sutton’s motion to just receive the report was passed by council.

DiPasquale’s further motion to have administration contact Oakville again regarding their bylaw to see how it could be amended for Amherstburg was also passed by council.

One response to “Council looking at bylaw to address nuisance smoke from solid fuel burning appliances”

  1. RT says:

    Burning any wood creates emissions that are as harmful as the pollutants contained in cigarette smoke. It’s a common myth that the smoke from clean, dry wood is not toxic.

    More information on wood smoke facts and myths is available at the Families for Clean Air website: