Singleton Council and Muswellbrook Shire Council are on the lookout for any smoky chimneys in the local area.
The act of emitting excessive smoke from your chimney is unlawful.
And, residents found to be emitting excessive smoke will be provided with educational material and /or a warning letter.
However, ongoing or serious breaches may result in the issue of a smoke abatement notice or a $200 fine.
Singleton Council Director of Planning and Infrastructure Mark Ihlein says that residents often are not aware that their wood heaters may be producing excessive smoke which could be impacting on their neighbours health.
“We encourage everyone with a wood heater to go outside and have a look at how much smoke is being emitted from their chimney,” he says.
“Usually very simple actions can be taken to reduce the amount of smoke, in particular opening the damper to allow more air into the heater.”
Over the coming months officers from both Councils will be monitoring smoke emissions from chimneys and notifying occupiers if their wood heater is producing excessive smoke.
The Protection of the Environment (Operations) Act defines “excessive smoke” as the emission of a visible plume of smoke from a chimney for a continuous period of not less than 10 minutes, including a period of not less than 30 seconds, when the plume extends at least 10 metres from the point at which the smoke is emitted from the chimney.
Both Singleton and Muswellbrook Council conduct periodic audits of chimneys annually during winter and also respond to community complaints about smoky chimneys.
A council spokespersons says this has occurred for a number of years but there has been a focus on auditing since the Wood Smoke Reduction Campaigns started in 2013 with funding by the Environment Protection Authority as compliance was a required component of the campaigns.
“The emphasis with the Wood Smoke Reduction campaigns however is to educate wood heater owners, so generally residents with chimneys producing excessive smoke are provided with notification that there chimney has been seen to producing excessive smoke, and provided with educational material on the common causes and how to prevent excessive smoke emissions,” the spokesperson says.
“Often residents aren’t aware that their chimneys are smoky as they don’t go outside when it is cold to have a look.”
“Smoke Abatement Notices and fines are only issued if the offence continues as the householder has made little or no effort to prevent excessive emissions of wood smoke, so are a last resort.”
“A warning is provided to the householder either verbally or in writing before these are issued and usually this sufficient for action to be taken by the householder.”
Information on using your wood heater more efficiently and Council’s compliance programs are available on both Councils’ websites at www.singleton.nsw.gov.au/rebate or at www.muswellbrook.nsw.gov.au