Many Region 8 burn bans include farmers

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – It's frustrating for residents to be surrounded by smoke day in and day out.

As farmers finish their harvest many are burning off the stubble left behind by the rice stalks, but is doing that legal?  That's a question we have taken to the federal state and local levels.

Skies filled with smoke are common in Region Eight during the fall, but during the past couple of weeks the smoke has become too much for some.  Dry weather and stagnant air is keeping the smoke hanging overhead.

"I know it's inconvenient however but when 30% of our local economy, I would even go to say it's higher than that, depends on agriculture then we're going to have agriculture practices," said Craighead County Judge Dale Haas.

Hass issued a burn ban on Wednesday.  He said the ban is necessary to protect the property and homes of residents and includes farmers who are burning off fields.

"I know it slows some of the practices down of agriculture and we depend on agriculture community for this county's economy, however we can't allow someone to destroy someone else's property," said Haas.

The Environmental Protection Agency said the smoky air we've all been experiencing is not addressed in federal clean air rules.  It is addressed by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality as an exception to their rule.

"No one should open burn any garbage or waste however there are several exemptions in that regulation and one of those regulations has to do with agriculture activities," said Cecillea Pond-Mayo with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

She said they received six complaints on Wednesday from people in Jonesboro about the smoke.  The biggest concern is over the impact this smoke has on the quality of the air.

"Particle pollution exposure can lead to irritation of the airways coughing or difficulty breathing especially those with asthma or any kind of decreased lung function may experience even more severe symptoms," said Pond-Mayo.

E-911 Director Jeff Presly said this ban will be hard to enforce but if they get a call will send the fire department like it's any other type of fire in Jonesboro or in the county.

"We do have some that ignore it in most cases the fire departments will warn them and after that they can request citations," said Haas.

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