Outdoor Wood Boilers (OWB) Are More Than A Nuisance

From time-to-time, the Gabriola Island Clean Air Society receives emails from across Canada from people who are desperate for help. Their local and provincial governments have failed them.

Recently, an individual from Cold Lake, Alberta, reached out to us. He and his family live in a residential neighbourhood where people commonly use wood stoves, burn bon fires, and even use outdoor wood boilers (OWB) for heating.

Here's a photo of his neighbour's OWB in operation. Properties in this community are on one acre lots - so this is close to his house.

According to the individual who connected with us:

"The volume of smoke from this OWB, is dozens of times greater than a traditional in-home wood stove. And, the OWB never shuts off. When it is not in active ‘plume mode,’ it smoulders and produces a constant stream of acrid, creosote-smelling smoke, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has wood delivered at the start of each winter, by a logging truck carrying dozens of 60’ rough timber pine trees."

Here's a photo of a delivery truck from this week making a drop off to the neighbour. Most people buy wood pre-cut and we wonder if they would have a different impression of the harm they're doing if they saw it come like this.

All of this to heat one home and shop with a combined size of less than 3000 square feet. What makes this particularly egregious is that the home already has a wood stove, access to natural gas, and electricity. It's also worth noting that houses in this community sell for north of $1M.

The OWB used on this property is a commercial unit, and the manufacturer states that it is for "non-residential applications only” in the U.S. 

Unfortunately, there are no laws or bylaws in place to protect people in Alberta from OWBs. Like with what we see in B.C., governments are passing the buck and claiming that they either won't intervene to stop someone from heating their homes (no matter how polluting and harmful to neighbours), or that it isn't their responsibility.

We have seen this kind of situation unfold countless times over the past decade, and in virtually every community in Canada.

Legal action against the burners, stove and OWB manufacturers, retailers, local government, provincial government, and the federal government is required to stop this horrible environmental injustice. Any lawyers out there brave enough to step up and help?


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