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Morgan, Lawrence face burn ban
ADEM announces counties on list in effort to control high ozone levels

By Eric Fleischauer 340-2435

Morgan and Lawrence counties are among a dozen counties in the state subject to a burn ban from May until October, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced Monday.

The annual ban has applied to both counties for several years. It does not apply to Limestone County.

Ron Gore, head of ADEM's Air Quality Division, said Morgan and Lawrence counties are on the list primarily because they had dangerously high ozone levels in the late 1990s. Reductions in the particulate matter that is released during burning also helps control ozone levels.

Gore said the ban is only slightly more restrictive than the statewide burning rule, which prohibits burning leaves or brush within 500 feet of an occupied residence. He said land-clearing activities are usually most impacted by the ban.

In addition to Morgan and Lawrence, the ban affects Baldwin, DeKalb, Etowah, Jefferson, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Russell, Shelby and Talladega counties.

Levels trended downward

Gore said ozone levels have trended downward since their peak in the 1990s, in part due to weather patterns and in part due to more stringent emission controls for automobiles and industry.

Ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides react in the presence of heat and sunlight, Gore said. Fine particulate matter is found in the smoke from open burning of vegetation and wood.

Though beneficial in the upper atmosphere, ozone is a respiratory irritant when found at ground level. Fine particulate matter can travel deep into the lungs and cause respiratory distress.

You can report violators of the burn ban to ADEM's local field office at 353-1713.

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