Health department reminds residents about open burning rules

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Department of Health reminds residents that year-round burning restrictions are in effect regarding the proper disposal of landscape waste.

Landscape waste consists of grass or shrubbery cuttings, leaves and tree limbs.  The “McHenry County Public Health Ordinance: Open Burning of Landscape Waste” permits unincorporated residents to burn landscape waste on Saturdays and Sundays during April, May, October and November if the burn area meets the setback requirements of at least 100 feet from a school, business, church or house; and 50 feet from a barn, shed or detached garage.

Burning of any materials (cardboard, paper, plastics, construction materials) other than on-site-generated landscape waste is prohibited at all times.  

Most municipalities have ordinances that restrict or prohibit the burning of yard waste. In areas where there is not a ban or more restrictive ordinance, the county ordinance – which is in effect year round – must be followed. 

An Illinois EPA, Bureau of Air, Application for Open Burning Permit is required for habitat reclamation burns regardless of acreage. For information, call the Illinois EPA, Bureau of Air Permit Section, at 217-782-2113.

The health department encourages a more environmentally sound approach:

• Reduce/Reuse: Use a mulching mower for grass and leaves or a chipper for branches. Native landscaping also will reduce the need for yard waste. 

• Recycle: Composting landscape waste can reduce material volume by 70 percent to 80 percent and act as a soil conditioner to improve plant growth. 

Licensed municipal waste haulers in McHenry County are required to provide pickup of landscape waste from residential customers; an additional fee may apply. Some waste haulers contract with municipalities, neighbors and homeowner associations to provide collection of landscape waste. Residents are encouraged to work collectively with neighbors and associations for the most economical solution for their neighborhood. 

Residents also may drop off landscape waste at a local facility that composts these materials into organic compounds for reuse. A listing of these services is available at www.mcdh.info, under Environmental Health, quick link – Open Burning, “other alternatives.” 

Communities with ordinances that meet or exceed county standards, as well as those with total bans on burning, also are listed. Call local police or fire non-emergency number for enforcement of open burning issues. If reporting an emergency complaint that is life-threatening or is a fire safety issue, call 911. Residents also may call the health department’s after-hours phone number, 815-344-7421, for assistance.

Details about the ordinance, suggested alternatives, exemptions and permit applications are available online at www.mcdh.info or by calling 815-334-4585.

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