The burn ban is part of the ADEM’s wider aim to protect air quality in specific counties with a history of high levels of air pollution.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently implemented an annual warm weather burn ban in twelve Alabama counties. From May 1st through to October 31st every year, open burning is now prohibited in Morgan, Baldwin, Shelby, DeKalb, Lawrence, Etowah, Mobile, Jefferson, Madison, Montgomery, Russell, and Talladega counties. The burn ban is part of the ADEM’s wider aim to protect air quality in specific counties with a history of high levels of air pollution.

Reducing ground-level ozone

Specifically, the burn ban is intended to prevent the formation of ground-level ozone and the creation of fine particulate matter that occurs during the summer months. “Prohibiting the open burning of wood, tree trimmings, brush and debris generated by land clearing and construction or demolition activities is an effective way to reduce the formation of ground-level ozone, which is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides react in the presence of heat and sunlight,” said Ron Gore, chief of ADEM’s Air Division. Although ozone is present naturally and beneficial in the upper atmosphere, it’s toxic to both people and plants when found at ground level.

Non-vegetative materials prohibited

Under the burn ban, “non-vegetative materials — such as oils, plastics, vinyl, paper, garbage, trash and treated and painted wood — cannot be burned anywhere in the state at any time,” explained Gore. Only vegetation and untreated wood can be burned during this time frame under state law. Aside from burning, other popular and efficient land clearing techniques include, cutting and grinding, bulldozing, and pulling, as explained by Land Clearing USA (https://landclearingusa.com/). These methods are effective at clearing materials like trees, brush, grass, or bark in order to develop land, and produce good results without the need for burning.

Alabama Forestry Commission

Notably, Gore stressed the ADEM’s new burn ban is different to past no-burn restrictions enacted by the Alabama Forestry Commission to minimize the risk of wildfires during periods of dry and warm conditions. The Forestry Commission recently downgraded a previously issued no-burn order for counties in north Alabama to a fire alert due to rains and cooler temperatures. Under a fire alert, permits for outdoor burning are restricted by the Forestry Commission and issued on an individual basis. A no-burn order for counties in south Alabama was also terminated.

Ultimately, the burn ban is enacted under the federal Clean Air Act to help ensure all residents of Alabama have clean air to breathe. It should not affect land clearance or building projects because of the number of alternative clearance methods available.

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