Wood Smoke Air Pollution Complaints

Wood Smoke Air Pollution Complaints


To seek relief as to wood smoke issues under the law a complaint to the authorities or court may be in order. Complaints are never any fun but sometimes a necessary evil. Consider complaints:

  • A complaint with the Municipality to request investigation of apparent violations of rules and regulations in the code.
  • A complaint with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) to request investigation of apparent violations of rules and regulations in County Ordinance 16782 e.g., ACHD Rules and Regulations, Article XXI Air Pollution Control and Article XI Hearings and Appeals
  • A complaint with the Magisterial District Court or Court of Common Pleas to initiate litigation and appropriate claims as to apparent violations of the law.

Complaints ensue in response to activities in spaces in the neighborhood where we live that are generally in close proximity to one another. Spaces across neighborhoods we live in are truly shared spaces – what occurs in any space can and will affect other spaces. Wood burning emissions on one property can and will disperse to and affect other properties.

Complaints trigger a process that we generally refer to as simply enforcement or compliance.

Enforcement is a function of local and County government that citizens consider important for accomplishing community goals, such as protecting property values and the environment as well as health and welfare necessary to carry on normal human activities. Local enforcement officials and County Inspectors are charged with the job of ensuring compliance with ordinances and the rules and regulations therein in a proper, timely fashion within the limits of the law.

In this context the code enforcement official or inspector is a unique public servant whose responsibility lies between policy and law enforcement and possible litigation. Enforcement generally applies the law to specific properties, either by using warnings and notices to persuade voluntary compliance or by filing court actions. Local enforcement officials and inspectors can only be effective if the law is well written and enforceable and if they work in a supportive administrative environment with access to the tools and training necessary to function effectively.

The ensuing Pages address Municipal, County and Court complaints as to compliance to a particular municipal code and sections therein and/or County Ordinance 16782 and ACHD Rules and Regulations, Article XXI Air Pollution Control and sections therein.

The diagram below illustrates the actions or steps as to enforcement of Municipal, County and Court complaints. Click the desired topic in the drop-down menu under Complaints to further explore Municipal, County and Court complaints.

Your ability to articulate and provide evidence related to allegations of ordinance violations in the wood smoke complaint is crucial. And, your recitation of the adverse effects of the violation(s) is also of importance to a favorable outcome with the Municipality, County or court. Adverse effects may include degradation of your environment, health, safety, welfare and property and inability to enjoy your property – indoors and out.


There may be occasion in the enforcement process to request investigation of a wood smoke complaint as to actions (or lack of action) in the administration and enforcement of alleged violations of the applicable sections in the Municipal Code or County Ordinance by a Municipal Code Enforcement Official or County Inspector or their respective offices.

In that case one may submit a request to the Municipal Manager or the Director, ACHD as well as others as appropriate to investigate the lack of action. This request must include specifics as to the original complaint e.g., the rules and regulations in the ordinance and the alleged violations thereof.

Click on the Campaign tab and Resource Material page in the drop-down menu to find sample Enforcement Complaint Forms to help address this issue.