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Outdoor burning may be banned

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By Jenny Hartley

County Council may douse outdoor burning to ensure that the county meets air quality standards.

County Administrator Steve Willis said he recently learned from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials that Lancaster and Anderson counties have been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as "areas of concern." This means the counties may fail to meet air-quality standards in the newly adopted 2008 ozone standards.

Willis said although there is no air-quality monitor in Lancaster County, computer modeling shows that the county is likely in non-attainment status.

"It was strongly suggested that we take local steps to improve our air quality, as such steps can be used to offset the presumptions from the computer modeling," Willis said.

County Council on Monday voted unanimously on first reading of an ordinance that would ban outdoor burning from May to September. The ordinance calls for the banning of burning for land clearing and right-of-way maintenance, except as specified by DHEC air quality regulations.

It would also prohibit open burning on any "ozone action day," as declared by federal or state environmental agencies, and during "red flag alerts," declared by the S.C. Forestry Commission.

The ordinance will take effect after three readings by council.

"I support some kind of burning ban," said Councilman Bryan Vaughn. "It's a major issue in the Panhandle."

Willis warned council members there are "adverse effects" to being designated an air-quality non-attainment area.

This could affect economic development because industries would have to install expensive air scrubbers for emissions. It could hurt the county in getting transportation funds because new roads would put more cars on the road, worsening air quality. It could also require that higher priced, cleaner fuels be sold in the area, putting a burden on residents.

County government is taking other steps to be proactive in attaining air quality, Willis said.

The county Planning Commission may consider strengthening the county's tree ordinance. Officials are also looking into buying more alternative-fueled vehicles for the county's fleet, and administratively enforcing a proposed state law banning the idling of large equipment and trucks, Willis said.

Council will vote on second reading of the ordinance at Monday's meeting.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1151