I See Smoke

I See Smoke PA is a Clean Air Council program aimed at increasing public knowledge of, and reducing emissions from, biomass burning in the state of Pennsylvania. Our goal is to provide tools and resources for communities to improve the regulations of biomass. To that end, our webpage includes information on biomass and its impact on public health, existing state and local policy, resources and fact sheets, model legislation, and ways you can take action in your community.

Biomass is organic matter used as fuel. The fuel can be either a liquid or solid, such as chipped wood, energy crops like switchgrass, forest or agricultural residue or waste, manufacturing waste, (i.e., wood shavings from a furniture factory or a paper mill), wood pellets, sewage sludge, or construction and demolition waste. Biomass is primarily fired in boilers, similar to coal, natural gas or fuel oil. Pennsylvanians use biomass primarily to generate heat, either on a smaller residential scale or on an institutional scale.

Using wood as a fuel creates a host of environmental and public health issues that can reduce local air quality and exacerbate existing respiratory problems. Biomass, such as wood, is a high-carbon fuel that gives off large amounts of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur oxides, in addition to volatile-organic-compounds and fine particulate matter. Inefficient combustion due to poor burning practices and poorly-designed furnaces worsens these problems, consuming more fuel and releasing greater emissions in exchange for little heat or energy.

Good burning practices and high-efficiency fireboxes can reduce these negative impacts, but not eliminate them. Whether to dispose of yard waste, heat private homes, or power industries and institutions, wood remains a poor energy choice.

For those affected by wood smoke pollution, the Clean Air Council’s I See Smoke program has rolled out a new tool that makes reporting pollution (particularly visible smoke and odors) easy. The I See Smoke map allows users to find their location and share information and photos of the smoke pollution in their neighborhood.


Full instructions on how to use the map can be found here .

By using the app, community members fill out information about the pollution they see. That information then gets passed on to the Clean Air Council, the PA Department of Environmental Protection, and all appropriate county health agencies. This streamlines the reporting process and makes sure that all violations are being reported to the agencies that oversee air quality enforcement.

If you have any questions or concerns about wood pollution, please contact Thurm Brendlinger. His email is brendlinger@cleanair.org, and his phone number is 215-567-4004 ext. 104.

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