When summer fun becomes a nuisance

As summer in the Pacific Northwest heats up, finally, outdoor fires from grills, barbeques, etc.  becomes a way to enjoy the sun.  While property owns can cook outdoors, everyone needs to keep in mind the Puget Sound Clean Air Regulations and nuisance laws to keep their summer fun from becoming a legal headache.  While burning your hotdogs is unlikely to cause a problem, clean air regulations prohibit any person from causing or allowing outdoor burning that causes an emission of smoke or any other air contaminant that is detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of any person, that causes damage to property or business, or that causes a nuisance.

A nuisance is anything injurious to health or indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of the life and property.  Emitting large quantities of noxious smoke in considered a nuisance in Washington and can subject the person violating the regulations to legal action from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and lawsuits from their neighbors.

After the weather cools down again, remember, it is illegal to burn anything other than manufactured logs or dry wood in an indoor fireplace.  You can, however, burn small amounts of paper to get the fire going.  It is always illegal to burn garbage in an indoor or outdoor fire.  In addition, a chimney producing too much smoke can be subject to an enforcement action if it exceeds 20 percent opacity for six consecutive minutes.  To see what this looks like please see

Have a safe an enjoyable summer and remember to be a good neighbor and environmental steward by keeping an eye on your fires.

Tacoma requires sewer line inspections before home sale, or major remodel…but why (or more to the point, why now)?

This article outlines an interesting requirement that the Tacoma city council passed that will take place in October of this year. In short, before any home can be sold or undergo significant remodeling, their must be an inspection of the sewer lines.

The reason is outlined in this article from last week, and basically states that older private sewer systems are allowing rainwater to get into their lines (probably due to degradation). As a result, the public sewer treatment systems get overloaded and can cause raw or almost-raw sewage to seep into the streets and sometimes directly into commencement bay.

The natural consequence of this requirement is that that home sales will suffer. Obviously, this is because in the current market buyers have most of the leverage. If a seller finds there is a problem in the sewer line, he may have to repair it (likely a very costly endeavor), or may have to reduce the price on the home significantly. Worst of all, the seller may simply lose the sale altogether.

The real question is why now? Does the City of data that shows this is an urgent need? While we are all sensitive to environmental concerns, I would hope that the government is trying to also be sensitive to their constituency. Given the current housing climate, significant requirements placed on home sales ought to be reserved until more robust times.