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Best location for a burn pile?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 67
Location: Merville, BC
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I'm not sure if this is the best forum for this question... but here goes.

We've just acquired a 5 acre rural property, complete with house, barn, pond. The land is old horse pasture. One of my first tasks has been to start fixing up the structures, which results in a fair amount of wooden demolition materials to deal with. Being as these are painted I'm not keen on using any of it for hugelkultur. I'm also resistant to paying to haul it to the dump. So I'd like to burn it. This does beg the question, however, of where to place the burn pile, in regards to the ash and residues. Does anyone have any suggestions/tips/cautions in regards to burning a pile of old renovation wood waste?

Cheers!
 
pollinator
Posts: 442
Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
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Hi, Please keep in mind. When you burn those building materials the most toxic elements on the planet will be released into the air, settling on your soil, surrounding flora, wildlife and neighbors property, possibly traveling for many miles. I hope someone here on permies will have a better suggestion other than burning.
 
author
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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where I live out in the country, burning toxic trash is a national pastime. sunny warm day in the spring? lets go burn some garbage! Not a good thing at all.
obviously there is no clean way to dispose of toxic paint and chemicals. landfills have their contamination issues. But please dont let the co$t be the reason for burning.
I would take it to your landfill. The toxins will be much better contained underground, rather than burning them and realeasing every last toxic molecule into the air.
Be a good neighbor.
 
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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I agree with Rick and Adam, since burning the wood will cause the lead to go airborne and most that is the most serious risk of lead poisoning. Personally I would hugel it and plant non edible plants on it.


Copied from University of Minnesota Extension Website:

In general, plants do not absorb or accumulate lead. However, in soils testing high in lead, it is possible for some lead to be taken up. Studies have shown that lead does not readily accumulate in the fruiting parts of vegetable and fruit crops (e.g., corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, apples). Higher concentrations are more likely to be found in leafy vegetables (e.g., lettuce) and on the surface of root crops (e.g., carrots).

Since plants do not take up large quantities of soil lead, the lead levels in soil considered safe for plants will be much higher than soil lead levels where eating of soil is a concern (pica). Generally, it has been considered safe to use garden produce grown in soils with total lead levels less than 300 ppm. The risk of lead poisoning through the food chain increases as the soil lead level rises above this concentration. Even at soil levels above 300 ppm, most of the risk is from lead contaminated soil or dust deposits on the plants rather than from uptake of lead by the plant.

 
Posts: 165
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I agree with the above. If you can't afford tipping fees at this point, either reserve the materials so that you can properly dispose of them later, or sequester them in a more functional system.

A burn pile will aerosolize some of the lead, and you'll still be left with a patch of lead-contaminated ash and soil.

I think what we're all trying to say here is that burning might seem convenient at this point, but it does not solve the problem.

Try bouncing your ideas for this project off the PC ethics and see how you feel. In this case, I think properly disposing of the materials (in a proper landfill) fits the ethics most closely.

I think we're all going to be facing this sort of decision a LOT in the coming years.

 
Kirk Hockin
Posts: 67
Location: Merville, BC
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Gack! Lead in the paint didn't even occur to me... I was more worried about plain old latex paint ingredients. Nor did I consider the aerosol effect... I blame the lack of sleep from having a 4 month old baby. My brain is stuck in first gear some days.

Thanks for the smack down folks! I'll start pricing a construction bin rental service, save up the detritus and have it all hauled off at the end of the season.
 
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Recycle everything that you can and only burn - wood and paper.
Then you can spread the ashes on your compost pile without fear.

Don't have a 'burn pile' location but move it around so as not to create a dead spot.
If you have a weedy patch or a stump to get rid of just burn there.

The really smart permie doesn't even burn that stuff but uses it for hugelkultur beds!
 
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Scott Romack : I second your very good choice to use most organics in a Hugel-Bed, contents permitting ! Or as I call them - Super Saturated Hugel Sponges,
S.S.H.S.s. As a Woodsman who came late to the '' Leave no Trace '' ethos , I actually feel a little weird quoting them ! But, One good hot fire is all that it takes to
sterilize all the soil down to the minerals layer ! As the damage is already done, there is no benefit to moving from one sterilized piece of ground to a second and
a third ! Plus You have the strong base-ph shift, only partially balanced by the charcoal ! 'I believe ' once you start a burn pile location, it should probably NOT be
moved unless you discover that you have a problem you had not anticipated ! Y.M.M.V. Hope this Helps !

For the Future/Good of the Craft ! Be safe, keep warm ! As always, your comments And questions are solicited and Welcome ! PYRO-LOGICAL, Big AL
 
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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Im thinking it might be the best idea to dig a hugelpit, burn in place till it is all lit, and rebury with the topsoil over it.

This will give you a biochar pit, and while it will be dead soil down below, it will trap nutrients and water for the next 20 years. And the topsoil should still be alive.


If you want to do small burns, then move em around the periphery of the shaded south part, with only northern exposure, and plant some morel spores.
Supposedly only grow on burnt areas.....
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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The lead in paints is certainly an issue.

In the U.S., lead paint was banned in 1978 (only for residential use - industrial use is still permitted). The ban in Canada came much later, and Canada still permits its use in primers and undercoatings, but does not allow it in the finish coat. Since you say you are from CA, there will be lead in any painted surfaces you encounter.

My suggestion would be to take a little extra time doing your dismantling so as not to damage the lumber more than necessary. The left over lumber could be utilized in other projects, such as a wood shed or tool shed. Re-use is probably the best use.

Also, if it is left in good condition (and you don't have a future use for it), you could put an ad in the 'freebies' section of Craig's List. I have seen many people do this - if it is usable lumber, it is usually gone in a few days - if it is trashed, nobody wants it. Saves you the tipping fees, and the time/gas to get it to the landfill.
 
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Guessin the least harmless way of getting rid of this stuff is incineration whereby at the super high temps the harmful stuff would drop out as dust rather than get airborne. After that i don't know what is second best - a hugelbed with trees cleaning it up maybe. Are landfills really the answer? Of course it depends on quantity as well. Could be dangerous to bury a lot of it. Pity that backyard burning at low temps is so hazardous to our health. Another option might be just leave it where it is until you can repurpose or recycle it some way you're happy with. This last option has worked for me. Never burnt any toxic stuff like plastic, and was lucky farm recycling got more sophisticated. If you don't have room, then i guess craiglisting, freecycling or of course your rental service.
 
Rick Roman
pollinator
Posts: 442
Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
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I'm not sure what kind of building material we are discussing or how old the demo material is. So, in addition to lead in the paint, you may be dealing with pressure treated wood chemicals, plywood glues, tars, rubbers, fiberglass, asbestos, aluminum metals , etc. I wouldn't want to even take a whiff of that stuff let alone deal with it in my soil or subject those toxins upon my neighbors, children, elderly or the surrounding wildlife.

Also, if you have a well on your property those toxins could possibly seep through into the ground water you drink.
 
Kirk Hockin
Posts: 67
Location: Merville, BC
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I figure I should add some details, for academic reasons, as well as to show I'm not a complete dunderhead. I do admit I was unaware that Canada hadn't banned lead paints as early, or to the same extent, as the US.

I'd already planned to divert all non-wood materials to recycling or landfill dumping (insulation, flashing etc...). It was only some of the wood (with assorted nails and screws) I was thinking of burning. The demolition materials are from a barn and a house, both built in the mid '70s, although at least some of the materials are from more recent renovations (ex. OSB stamped 2001). Some of the demolition materials, from the barn, are repurposed highway sign components, mostly posts with a few distance signs. So, the likelihood of dodgy paint seems high. Part of the plan of burning the wood materials was to use a magnetic rake afterwards to collect all the fasteners to recycle.

All that being said, I have already sorted out the easily re-usable pieces of wood. Most of what is in the burn pile was too damaged during deconstruction such that it isn't worth reusing. Admittedly, I was somewhat over excited about a huge bonfire/burnpile I didn't consider lead paints, or aerosol effects of burning... I blame my inner 5 year old pyro... I was also planning on burning down slope from the well, in any case. All the natural wood debris on site is already being stacked separately for future hugel usages, not to mention I'm scoping out the slash piles at the failed development site a few kilometres down the road...

I will collect the unusable, unrecyclable debris and rent a disposal bin at the end of the summer to have hauled off to a landfill... not that this disappears the toxins, but it does relocate them far from home, and contained with all the other local toxins.
 
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