Columbia County residents have just two more days to burn yard debris.
Friday is the first day of the five-month ban on residential and commercial burning.
The ban, instituted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division five years ago to improve air quality during smog season, extends through Sept. 30.
The statewide ban affects 54 counties, including Columbia and Richmond, according to the EPD. It prohibits residents from burning yard debris, including limbs, leaves and pine straw.
During the summer months, levels of ozone increase to unhealthful levels and contribute to smog.
Emissions from automobiles, diesel engines and manufacturing plants are the main components of poor air quality. Emissions from open burning also contribute, said Steve Abbott, the senior chief ranger of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
"By abiding by the burn ban, it's what the local homeowner can do to help keep air clean," Abbott said.
The Atlanta area, among others, is considered a "non-attainment" zone, meaning the air does not meet federal health standards and can be harmful to breathe. Non-attainment brings stricter regulations on industry and transportation planning and directly affects residents.
"We're closer to non-attainment," Abbott said of the Augusta area.
The ban helps keep ozone and other pollution levels down during the summer.
Abbott recommends alternative methods of disposing of yard debris, including chipping, grinding and mulching, or taking the debris to an inert landfill such as Sample and Associates on Columbia Road.
Agricultural burning, forestry-related burns and recreational burns, including campfires and cooking fires, will be allowed.
Residents caught burning illegally probably will be warned and made to extinguish the fire, Abbot said. Citations usually are issued on second offenses.
"Overall, we did very well last year," he said. "Just a few isolated cases here and there."
For information, call the Georgia Forestry Office at (706) 556-3962 or visit www.gatrees.org.
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