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Backyard Fire Pits an Issue Facing Whitehall Council

Also, a discussion about a war memorial, and other leftovers from a June 20 borough meeting.

Residents Have Fire Pits Concerns

The aroma of a backyard fire is a welcome smell to many folks in . But to some others, it's a nuisance.

Because with the smell comes the smoke.

That was the story from a discussion among Whitehall council members at a borough meeting on Wednesday night.

Some council members admitted that they enjoy backyard fire pits in the borough, but some of those same members said that they understand why their neighbors might not.

Councilman Philip Lahr said that residents tell him that they can't open their windows when a neighbor starts a fire.

Borough Manager James E. Leventry said that whenever the weather gets nice every year, Whitehall's municipal offices' phones start to ring with calls from just such residents complaining about fire pits.

Leventry has suggested to the borough council that it should at least consider some controls over the use of fire pits so as not to upset many residents.

Council President William J. Veith directed a fellow councilman—and the borough's Public Safety Committee chair—Robert McKown, to look into the matter.

Councilman Glenn Nagy opined that some residents are perhaps just as (if not more) concerned with the "beer-infused noise" that often accompanies the use of backyard fire pits as they are with the smoke.

Nagy recommended to McKown that one place to start addressing the fire pits issue would be the borough's townhomes complexes, which may have local rules that limit or prohibit fires.

Baptist Road War Memorial to Be Moved?

Councilman Harold Berkoben has suggested that borough officials work to restore and possibly revamp a Whitehall war memorial that sits along Baptist Road near McKee Drive.

Berkoben said that a paint job on the memorial, which honors veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, is showing signs of age. He is suggesting "something more permanent" made of bronze and/or aluminum.

But Lahr felt that the memorial should be taken down in its entirety and moved to or even rebuilt at the Whitehall Municipal Complex along Borough Park Drive so that it can have better care.

He also said that more veterans would be honored that way.

"It's kind of like a nothing up there (on Baptist)," Lahr said, "and it should be more honorable down here (at the municipal complex)."

Berkoben said that those who built the memorial—he does not know who they are—must have placed it on Baptist for a reason and that Whitehall officials should respect that.

Councilwoman Linda J. Book expressed worry that the memorial might become damaged in transit.

No formal decision was made on Wednesday regarding the memorial.

Retired Flags Collection in Whitehall?

Mayor James F. Nowalk said that a , Bob Webber, has suggested that borough officials establish a local receptacle to collect damaged or worn U.S. flags so that they can be properly retired in a fire pit, such as .

"I think it's a great idea," Nowalk said, suggesting that the receptacle be placed in the  lobby.

McKown expressed concern that space in the library's lobby is already at a premium. He also pointed out that the annual ceremony in South Park takes place not very far from Whitehall and that local residents can bring their flags there.

"I'm not saying that I'm necessarily pushing it (a Whitehall flags receptacle)," Nowalk said, "but I do want to explore it. ... I like when residents call and present ideas."

New Policeman

Nowalk swore in the borough's newest police officer—Daniel Bowman, a 2005  graduate. (See this article's media gallery for photos of the swearing-in ceremony.)

"We strive for the best," Nowalk said to Bowman. "We take great pride in , and we welcome you as an addition."

July 4 Meeting Canceled

There will only be one meeting of the Whitehall Borough Council in July—Wednesday, July 18, at 8 p.m.

DePuy Absent

Councilwoman Kathleen N. DePuy was not at Wednesday's meeting.

Don't(?) Tread on Me

Read .

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cc July 20, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Hope she has an easy delivery and congrats
Margaret French July 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM
She isn't due until Sept. 11th
cc July 20, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Sue was due Sept 5th and had a healthy baby girl and i''ll keep you and your family in my prayers.
Margaret French July 20, 2012 at 06:57 PM
She just called me. They say it wasn't her water. I don't know... maybe pressure on her bladder. I don't know.
cc July 20, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Baby can be pressing on her bladder and glad her water didn't break.
Margaret French July 20, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I have one born on Sept. 7th and then one born Sept 6th no even a year later . LOL When she was younger and didn't eat her vegetables she thought her brother was going to pass her up since for one day they were the same age. LOL
nofire pitts August 22, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Back to the fire pits problem again, here's an interesting letter on the issue from just the other day in The Trib: http://triblive.com/opinion/letters/2417394-74/county-neighbor-allegheny-emissions-blah-burning-department-fire-health-recreational The writer (from Shaler) hits the nail on the head: "These recreational (?) activities also contribute to the poor air quality in Allegheny County. I am certainly not against campfires in traditional, rural camping areas set aside for these types of activities. What I am against are fire pits and fire barrels being permitted in congested neighborhoods that comprise most of Allegheny County."
JM August 29, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Hopefully you don't make it 31 years living in Whitehall, I'm sure other communities would love to welcome you with open arms after they have to send away the police calls at their front door laughing at you.
tired of complainers August 29, 2012 at 06:47 PM
So.....1 day out of every month or so??? and you called the police??? They were not burning hazardous chemicals, but items that would otherwise be stuffed in garbage bags and fill our land fills? You can't "TOLERATE" that for about 2 1/2 hours in a one or two month period? NOW THAT IS RIDICULOUS....and I am glad you are not my neighbor, because I would have taken over my leaves and sticks and paper and joined in.
Lynne S August 29, 2012 at 09:17 PM
I invite you guys to stand on my back porch when this is going on, & see if you still feel the same way. Did you not read the part about using fire pits as an excuse to burn everything that they want to get rid of? Allegheny County outlawed burning in our yards to depose of our trash, etc. over 20 years ago. Unless of course you use them for the same reason. If that's the case then I understand your mentality.
Lynne S August 29, 2012 at 09:28 PM
I want to thank you for your comment. It's amazing how many people feel that they can do whatever they please, without any concern about the laws or their neighbors. I do want to add though, that most of our neighbors look out for one another, & are very conscientious.
nofire pitts August 30, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Lynne, The Health Department has an Air Quality complaint line that operates 24/7. Granted, their ability to respond is sadly limited, and it won't happen as an emergency response anyway. But we must continue to build the body of evidence showing that open burning is a problem in our neighborhoods. The fact that you witnessed these people gathering their yard waste and burning it is excellent! It's illegal! Please make a complaint! My problem is that I don't know where the wood smoke is even coming from in my neighborhood! It would make me physically ill to try and locate it for my complaint! Here's a link to the Health Department's Air Quality Program: http://www.achd.net/air/index.php They have an online complaint form available there. I typically call my complaint in on the phone: 412-687-ACHD (412-687-2243) It's frustrating because it seems like nothing is being done about this. I keep making the complaints anyway. More people are speaking up. Sooner or later the law will need to be strengthened. As evidenced by the original Patch article above, stating that Whitehall Borough is paying attention to the issue, there is hope! I believe that sooner or later proper regulation and enforcement will become the norm. We are where we were fifteen or twenty years ago with regard to cigarette smoking in public places. Second hand smoke makes people sick! This kind of neighborhood smoke pollution is a much worse health hazard than cigarette smoke!
cc August 30, 2012 at 06:48 AM
Lynne have to agree, a fire pit isn't for burning garbage as we have ordinance in Allegheny County about it. Fire pits were made to toss a log or two in enjoy a few hours outdoors where you can stay warm and enjoy friends and family together.
Lynne S August 30, 2012 at 03:40 PM
You hit the nail on the head...Did you happen to see the news segment on "Good Morning America", a couple months ago? They said that the chemicals that are used to make those pretty smells in the softener sheets, are now proven to cause cancer. Not only from wearing the clothes & it going through the skin, but they said that when the dryer heats up those chemicals, a person will be affected if they breath them in from outside. So I guess your body is smart & is trying to tell you something.
Matt A. August 30, 2012 at 05:30 PM
My neighbors have fire pits and never seen one do as your neighbor has done. My neighbors use them the correct way and don't burn garbage in them. Have you considered filming them and sending a copy to Allegheny County Health Department along with your neighbors name and address. Fire Pit Rules from Allegheny County Health Dept Only dry, clean wood may be burned, not any garbage or debris. The fire must be at least 10 feet away from the nearest structure, inhabited area, roadway or property line. Under certain circumstances, the distance may have to be greater to prevent smoke and odor emissions from creating a public nuisance. The fire must be tended at all times. Health officials suggest that people also check with their municipality to see whether any local ordinances may prohibit or regulate the use of outdoor wood burning units in their community. Complaints about excessive smoke and odor emissions from such equipment may be reported to the Health Department by calling 412-687-ACHD. http://www.county.allegheny.pa.us/news/2007/271005.asp
Matt A. August 30, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Allegheny County Health Department won't do anything unless people are breaking the law like Lynne S neighbors are doing. The county has rules set up for burning in fire pits. Fire Pit Rules from Allegheny County Health Dept Only dry, clean wood may be burned, not any garbage or debris. The fire must be at least 10 feet away from the nearest structure, inhabited area, roadway or property line. Under certain circumstances, the distance may have to be greater to prevent smoke and odor emissions from creating a public nuisance. The fire must be tended at all times. Health officials suggest that people also check with their municipality to see whether any local ordinances may prohibit or regulate the use of outdoor wood burning units in their community. Complaints about excessive smoke and odor emissions from such equipment may be reported to the Health Department by calling 412-687-ACHD. http://www.county.allegheny.pa.us/news/2007/271005.asp No one showed up at Whitehall Borough meeting to make a complaint about fire pits in July. I can see Lynne S showing up for how her neighbors are illegally burning but when one uses them correctly there shouldn't be any complaints.
tired of complainers August 30, 2012 at 06:07 PM
THE SKY IS FALLING!! Poor Henny Lynne Penny!! Get out quick, sounds like the fire pit army is out to get you. Now you have, the police, the health department on alert....bump it up to the National Guard, for your oreos sake!!! It's a conspiracy! Go for a walk, go to the mall, DO SOMETHING, other than "catch the evil fire pit dwellers"....my Goodness! Find something you LIKE about your neighbors....But please save your oreos for CC, her kid eats 3rd lunch at Baldwin, and there's NO FOOD.
JM August 30, 2012 at 06:19 PM
The appropriate response besides to mind your own business would be to do what you call the "extremely kind and considerate" thing a neighbor would do by politely talking to the neighbors and discussing your issues with them instead of running and telling on them like a third grader at the playground.
Lynne S August 30, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Thank you "tired of complainers" for your comment. It gave all of us here a good laugh. I haven't been teased like that with the rhyming of my name since I was in grade school. I'd say the kids were probably 2nd graders.
Lynne S August 30, 2012 at 08:52 PM
The neighbors have spoken to them, they were rude, laughed, & walked away, sort of like a spoiled 3rd grader or like some of the bloggers on this page.
iluvtosing1982 September 04, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I just bought a house in whitehall and we were thinking about throwing our first party around halloween and thought about doing a fire pit but i dont want to break any rules especailly since Im a newbie to the borough. Any update on this?
Robert Edward Healy, III September 04, 2012 at 09:48 PM
iluvtosing1982, This should help you immensely: http://patch.com/A-vRCV.
cc September 05, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Lynne there is only one spoiled person on here that wants fire pits gone. We use ours all the time as our neighbors do but we don't burn all our trash in them. I just had delivered 2 cords of firewood for the fireplace and for the fire pit. Most we ever put in there is 4-5 logs. It is a nice way to get away from the tv and enjoy being in the out doors.
iluvtosing1982 September 06, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Mr. Healy - Thank you for the link but I am not sure I know where to find it. I am a 30 years old soon to be newlywed (September 15) and this owning a house is a new thing for me. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much,
Robert Edward Healy, III September 06, 2012 at 01:28 PM
iluvtosing1982, Check out Section 104.3 here: http://www.whitehallboro.org/whbCode/520175%20-%20Whitehall%20-%20Chapter%20104%20-%20Garbage,%20Rubbish%20and%20Refuse%20-%203-27-12.pdf.
iluvtosing1982 September 07, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Thank you for your help Mr. Healy.
Robert Edward Healy, III September 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Regarding fire pits, folks: Whitehall Borough Manager James E. Leventry told me today that Whitehall's Public Safety Committee is reviewing the borough's code regarding burning. No changes to the code have occurred, but again, the committee is looking at its options.
Robert Edward Healy, III February 07, 2013 at 08:46 PM
UPDATE: "Whitehall Council to Consider New Fire Pits Ordinance" - http://patch.com/A-1J8p
Cindy Fisher February 08, 2013 at 01:48 PM
I wish Whitehall Boro would be as concerned with the escalating property damage by the overpopulation of deer as they are with stupid little fire pits! I'm ready to move out of the boro because of the problem!
Robert Edward Healy, III February 22, 2013 at 02:49 AM
UPDATE: "Whitehall Council Posts Open Fires Ordinance" - http://patch.com/A-2jpL

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