Just in time for winter's chill, Yakima Regional Clean Air this week received a $500,000 state grant to assist with replacing outdated wood stoves.
Unlike the rebate program that recently ended, the new money will go towards full replacement of uncertified wood stoves, which produce harmful smoke.
Dave Caprile is a spokesperson for the agency, and he said that county residents who use uncertified wood stoves or a wood stove insert as their sole source of heat and meet income guidelines can receive a new heating system.
He says the program will pay for new heating systems valued at up to $4,000. "It will be high quality, but not top of the line with all the special trimming," says Caprile.
The income guidelines are based on 80 percent of the federal median income.
That means a single person earning up to $31,750 per year with an uncertified wood stove would be eligible for the program. Couples with $36,250 combined income and a family of four with total combined income of $45,800 with old wood stoves are also eligible.
Caprile says the focus, though, is on replacing wood stoves in heavily populated areas within city limits. The goal is to remove the harmful smoke to improve the valley's air quality.
The replacement program is also available for those within the income guidelines who use an unaltered fireplace as their only source of heat.
Caprile says that means if there's another heating source in the home, even if it is in disrepair, then the family would be ineligible.
He also noted that the county will need to verify the income of participants in the program.
For more information or to apply to the uncertified wood stove replacement program call Michelle at 800-540-6950 or 509-834-2050.
Information on the program will also be posted at www.yakimacleanair.org.
The $500,000 designated for Yakima County is part of a $3 million package the state legislature provided the Department of Ecology for smoke-reduction. The funds came from the state's voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.
The funding is a priority because state officials say fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into a person's lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems and even death. People with asthma and respiratory illnesses, children and older adults are most at risk.
A 2009 state study estimates that fine particles lead to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in added health-care costs each year in Washington.