Update: 10/21/16, 6:00 pm, Friday
CHAMPAIGN — An ordinance people in the township have been fighting for for years was approved Thursday night. It bans yard waste burning of any kind. Neighbors say some people have been doing it for years.
Aside from waste pickups, people can still have their waste burned. They just have to take it somewhere else to do it.
There’s a site right next to the Champaign Township Town Hall where people can dump yard waste and have it burned on site. It’s a relief for some people who have been complaining about thick smoke from yard waste burning for years.
It’s even caused health problems. They describe what it’s like when people do it.
“Oh it’s a haze here, and very, very thick and dense, especially when we have a little bit of wind like we do today. So I mean it’s terrible for anybody that has breathing problems or asthma,” said Art Pesch.
His neighbor next door’s little boy is an example. His parents say he went to the ICU a few years ago because he inhaled so much smoke. Now they’re hoping this ordinance means nothing like that will happen again.
But neighbors suspect this won’t be the end to waste burning yet. They think some people across the street will do it anyway.
But Champaign County’s director of zoning and planning says repeat offenders will be referred for legal action. There’s only a total ban on yard waste burning in Champaign township.
In other townships around Champaign-Urbana, it’s just leaves and grass which can’t be burned. The wood parts of yard waste can be, as long as there’s little to no smoke involved.
Original: 8/4/16, 6:41 pm, Thursday
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — For years, people outside Champaign’s city limits have been breathing in smoke. Some are getting tired of it.
After getting complaints, the county is looking at putting tighter restrictions on leaf burning, with health risks from the amount of smoke the burning can cause, the main concern.
The Environmental and Land Waste Committee meeting is Thursday night. Neighbors who’ve been upset about the burning are coming out to see what’s being done about the smoke problem.
Right now, the county’s got two options. People in the Devonshire neighborhood say they have to close their windows at night.
“It’s not the most welcome thing to have happen when you open your windows and your house is full of smoke.”
Some say it’s a daily nuisance, but Kylene Gilbert say’s it’s what threatened her son’s life.
“In 2013, when my 2-year old son had a very severe respiratory reaction after our windows were open and smoke entered our home. So, he actually ended up hospitalized in the ICU, in intensive care on a respirator for eleven days.”
She’s going to the meeting because it’s still a problem.
“He does have asthma and so anytime somebody does burn, it’s still an issue for us. He could still have some kind of a reaction that could cause that.”
Other neighbors say there’s no problem with burning as long as people are doing it the right way.
“I just feel like it doesn’t hurt anything if you burn them right. You’ve got to burn them dry, definitely not wet, and a little bit at a time.”
Regardless of a right or wrong way, the health risk is still there. That’s why the county came up with two options to try to fix the problem.
“One is a total ban within 1,000 feet of the city limits of Champaign-Urbana. The second option is an option to only ban in areas that do have recycling and there’s only one area in Champaign-Urbana.”
That’s the Township of Champaign, where many complaints have come from. Neighbors and county members say fall is the peak time when there are a lot of leaves to bag up, so that’s why the county is discussing the matter now, to help fix the problem before fall.
“This is something that we wanted to get on the agenda. We wanted to get something out here for the fall coming up because we’ve had a tremendous growing season.”
At Thursday’s meeting, they’ll not only discuss the waste limit options, they’ll also talk about how they’ll enforce it if it does to into effect.
This year so far, the Illinois EPA received 13 open burning complaints specific to Champaign County. In 2015, it received 12 complaints and, in 2014, people put in 18 complaints.