Council working with retailers to reduce air pollution levels
16 December 2022
Derry City and Strabane District Council is to continue working with coal and solid fuel suppliers to ensure that smokeless fuel is available to help reduce air pollution levels in the Derry and Strabane area.
High air pollution levels were recorded in Northern Ireland over the weekend, particularly in the Strabane and Newtownstewart areas. This is partly due to an increase in usage of solid fossil fuel during the cost of living crisis, as householders try to avoid using gas and oil as prices soar.
On Wednesday, Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council, passed a motion stressing that fines in place to help control domestic particulate emissions in smoke control areas should be waived for anyone facing fuel poverty.
There are a number of designated smoke control areas in the Council area, including Strabane, Castlederg and Newtownstewart. In smoke control areas, residents are required to use 'authorised fuels' (smokeless fuels) or install an 'exempted fireplace'.
Council's Head of Health and Community Wellbeing, Seamus Donaghy, said that while there is no intention at this stage to visit domestic properties, Environmental Health Officers would be working with retailers to ensure smokeless fuels are being made widely available.
"It is important to note that smokeless fuels can be more cost-effective than your standard house coal as it can provide a third more heat than standard house coal and can also burn for longer. This means they can burn hotter for longer, meaning you need to refuel your appliance less often. A recent survey of retailers in the Council area has confirmed that the price for smokeless coal is generally lower than bituminous coal therefore the public are encouraged to use smokeless fuel," he explained
"When fuels such as coal, wood and turf are burnt, the smoke they emit can contain harmful gases and microscopic particles which can cause damaging health effects. Smoke Control Areas are in place to control domestic particulate emissions from solid fuel burning and protect the public's health and the quality of the air that we all breathe.
"The people most at risk to these harmful effects are the young, the elderly and those with existing heart and respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. It's therefore important that these control measures are continued in Strabane, Castlederg and Newtownstewart to ensure the public's health is protected.
"However, I want to offer reassurances that fines are not being imposed on domestic properties. Enforcement at the moment includes monitoring the sale of non-smokeless fuels and providing advice to solid fuel retailers in and around the smoke control areas. We would urge the public to use smokeless fuels, particularly in smoke control areas, and to be mindful of those with serious health conditions who are affected by increases in air pollution."
Anyone requiring any further information in relation to smoke control should contact the Environmental Health Service of Derry City and Strabane District Council by telephoning the Environment and Neighbourhoods Team on 028 71 253 253.
For real time data on air quality, members of the public should visit the following website https://www.airqualityni.co.uk/ . This website also allows an app to be downloaded which will keep you updated about air pollution in Northern Ireland.
To find out if your property is in a Smoke Control Area, visit http://www.derrystrabane.com/ Useful links are also available at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) website: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/air-pollution#toc-6