Metro-East News

Should Swansea ban leaf burning? Residents will get a chance to weigh in.

What’s so bad about burning leaves?

Communities most often ban leaf burning because they are worried about public health. Here's how leaf burning harms children and older adults, and some alternatives.
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Communities most often ban leaf burning because they are worried about public health. Here's how leaf burning harms children and older adults, and some alternatives.

Swansea village leaders are once again considering whether to ban leaf burning, like several other metro-east cities have done.

The Village Board is scheduled to take comments from the public about leaf burning at 7 p.m. Monday in the Thompson Center at 1501 Caseyville Ave. in Melvin Price Memorial Park. Most of the board members said they did not expect a vote to be taken on the issue Monday night, but that it could be possible since the topic will be on the agenda.

To accommodate a potentially large crowd, the meeting site was moved from the usual room at Village Hall to the Thompson Center.

In April 2015, about 100 people attended a meeting when board members voted to tighten the rules on leaf burning.

At that time, the board said the village would no longer issue permits to burn yard waste outside of regular burning seasons.

Swansea residents can burn leaves from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the fall and spring burning seasons. The fall burning season is scheduled to run Oct. 3 to Nov. 28 this year.

Opponents of a ban on leaf burning have raised concerns about the cost of removing the leaves from their homes, while residents in favor of a ban have said they are concerned about how the smoke affects people with asthma and COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Belleville News-Democrat polled the mayor and the six Village Board members about their position on leaf burning. One board member, Brian Wells, wants the village to ban leaf burning, while Mayor Mike Leopold and board members Matt Lanter, Rocky McDonald, Brian McGuire, Marilyn Neumeyer and Steve Pulley said they want to hear from the public Monday night before taking a stand.

“It’s a challenging situation,” Pulley said.

Leopold said he sees both side of the argument.

“I understand the people that are affected by asthma and who can’t go outside on certain days because of smoke. I empathize with those people,” Leopold said. But he added, “There’s a lot of areas in old Swansea that have big, huge trees, and that’s a problem for a lot of people.”

Wells said he wants the village to ban the burning of leaves and grass for health reasons.

“Fewer and fewer people are burning, but it only takes one person to foul the air for a whole neighborhood,” he said in an email. “It takes its toll on all of us, but hits the young and elderly harder.”

Susannah Fuchs, director of clean air for the American Lung Association in Missouri, said the group urges people to mulch, compost or bag their leaves instead of burning them.

“Leaf smoke is harmful to those who have lung disease like COPD and asthma,” Fuchs said. “There’s a lot of tiny particles in that leaf smoke. It gets really deep into your lung tissue and it causes all sorts of symptoms and it can exacerbate disease and it can have effects that happen days later and not just right now.”

Belleville, Swansea’s neighboring city, banned leaf burning in 2011. Other nearby cities that have banned leaf burning include Collinsville, Edwardsville and O’Fallon.

Swansea residents can have Republic Services collect their yard waste for $11.10 a month with a three-month minimum commitment.

Swansea leaders have discussed putting the issue on the ballot as a nonbinding referendum, but no action was taken to do that.

Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND