Neighbors’ pollution feud hits boiling point
Fire might be an age-old heating method, but Indiana is behind the curve in regulating homeowners who use it. Hydronic heaters, or wood-fired boilers, are a source of noxious and irritating fumes to some who live downwind.
The Hoosier Environmental Council has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Rush County couple, claiming the states regulation of wood-fired boilers is inadequate. In 2010, an estimated 8,000 Indiana residents used the furnaces, which burn wood to heat water that is tapped to warm homes and provide hot water.
The environmental group filed a lawsuit against Christopher and Shelley Nicholson, whose boiler operates within feet of a property owned by Mable and Gary Bowling. As a result, Mable Bowling has developed chronic bronchitis, according to her physician, and undergoes treatment for asthma exacerbated by the wood-fired boiler. The Bowlings have repeatedly asked for the heater to be moved to another location on the Nicholsons four-acre property.
Local and state agencies have declined to take action on the complaints, citing Indianas rules regarding wood-fired boilers. The state does not prohibit use of the older, most-polluting boilers, like the one used by the Nicholsons. In other states, use of such boilers has been banned.
Without adequate safeguards from the state, the Bowlings have no recourse but a lawsuit, according to the Hoosier Environmental Council.