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Paynesville Press - June 2, 2004

City considering fall leaf burning ban

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

City residents would no longer be able to burn leaves in the fall if the city council decides to approve a proposed burning ban within the city limits.

A public hearing - to give residents an opportunity to air their opinions about the proposed ban - is scheduled for Wednesday, June 9, at 7 p.m. at city hall.

Currently, city residents can burn leaves in the fall from mid-October to mid-November from dawn to dusk without a permit.

The proposal to ban leaf burning comes as a recommendation to the city council from the environmental committee.

Burning leaves causes a litany of problems, according to public works director Ron Mergen. It is a nuisance to neighbors, causes air pollution, poses a fire danger (especially when residents don't watch the wind when they burn), and can damage city streets, said Mergen. Heat from burning leaves in the streets can cause damage to the asphalt, noted Mergen.

Secondhand smoke from burning leaves can be especially dangerous to people with allergies or asthma, added Chuck Koshiol, a member of the environmental committee.

When leaves are burned in the street, the ashes are washed into the city's stormwater sewer, which takes the water (and ashes) directly to the Crow River and to Rice Lake and Lake Koronis.

Ashes contain nutrients, especially pot ash and phosphorous, according to Peter Jacobson, president of the Koronis Lake Association and publisher of the Paynesville Press. When nutrients are washed into rivers and streams via storm sewers, they contribute to algae growth in the area lakes.

Instead of burning leaves, residents should be making them into good soil, said Koshiol. He believes Paynesville residents can make a difference in the environment by making a few simple changes, like composting their leaves instead of burning them.

Composting leaves and grass clippings is an ideal way to protect the environment, he said. Not only does composting protect the environment from the hazards of burning, but composted leaves and clipping can be put back on lawns and gardens to provide nutrients.

One reason for proposing the leaf burning ban is that the city offers an alternative in its compost site, a convenient place to dispose of yard waste for city and township residents.

The compost site is located two miles northeast of Paynesville on Co. Rd. 33, near the city sewer ponds. During the summer, the compost facility is open from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Finished compost may also be picked up at the facility.

Currently, the city is considering expanding the hours at the compost site to make it more convenient for residents to use, said Mergen.

The city also provides a leaf pick-up in the fall. Once each fall, West Central Sanitation picks up bagged leaves from the curb and takes them to the compost site. The city is considering adding at least one more leaf pick-up date to make disposal even easier, said Mergen.

The easiest way to dispose of leaves is to simply mulch them (with a mower) and leave them on the lawn to provide nutrients as they break down, Mergen added.

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