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Neighbors’ Relationship Goes Up In Smoke

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TALLMADGE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (Feb. 24, 2014) –– A dispute between neighbors has one man defending his heating methods and another packing his bags.  It comes down to the rising smoke from a wood-burning stove and the direction it blows.

The two neighbors actually have some things in common: both suffer from asthma, both have done their research on wood stoves, and both are trying to stay warm through a long winter in West Michigan.

On the front lawn of Thomas Morgan’s home there are stumps like grave markers, evidence of the lengths he’ll go to beat back the cold.

“Most of what I burn is maple, cherry, sassafras,” said Morgan of the contents of his wood-burning stove. “A lot easier on your lungs.”

Those trees are cut down and burned so Morgan doesn’t have to make other sacrifices. “It’s saved me a good $100 or more the heating bill,” he said.

But when the winds blow that smoke to the west, that’s when his neighbor Thomas Dooley takes issue. “It’s thick enough where you would want to open the door for fresh air, and the problem is worse,” Dooley explains.

The two men decided separately to move to out Tallmadge Charter Township because they like the country feel, the privacy the rural township has to offer.  Unfortunately for them, the way the houses are situated feels more like a subdivision, and that helps drive a wedge between the two neighbors.

The smoke issue began to blur the one-time neighborly friendship about a year ago.

“I tried to confront him, and all he tried to do was confront me in a physical manner,” said Dooley.

Morgan responded, “He wasn’t happy with the smoke blowing in his direction. I told him we are out in the country, and that’s what we do out here.”

Dooley took home video of the smoke, then took his complaints to the township supervisor.  He cited a zoning ordinance that states the fumes and odors from the smoke are obnoxious and dangerous.  The township supervisor told FOX 17 Morgan is compliant in terms of the height and type of smokestack required for the residences in the township.

“There is nothing they will do about it,” said Dooley.

“If he has a complaint, I’m sorry,” responded Morgan. “It’s the middle of winter, and I’m not going to stop burning a wood stove.”

Dooley also takes issue with when the wood is being burned. “He chops it down and 20 minutes later, it’s in the fireplace,” he said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, freshly-cut wood creates more smoke and is harder on the lungs and the environment.  The agency recommends burning only dry, seasoned wood.

“I usually have good, seasoned wood by this time, and it’s not a problem,” said Morgan.  “But it’s getting a little more winter than we are used to.”

Without any action, Dooley said he will find a new home by spring.

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  • Susan

    I don't understand this neighbors complaint of the smoke. I live in the country, I have asthma, when you live in the country things are different than I the city. Many of my neighbors and myself included heat with wood. No big deal. The smoke that was shown on the news clip is nothing to complain about. The neighbors snarky attitude about the smoke seems to be someone who's just looking for something to complain about and to get on the news. I think it is time for him to get over that tiny little plume of smoke.

    • Shirley

      That is bull crap and you very well know it. It doesn't matter where one lives. Nobody should be allowed to fill another person's home with wood smoke. If you have asthma and still burn you are asking for major health problems. I hope you don't have children that are breathing that wood smoke.

  • Barbara

    This sort of dispute is playing out all over North America. The township needs to face reality – a growing body of evidence shows wood smoke is harmful to human health. If the homes are situated like a subdivision, Mr. Dooley is involuntarily exposed to wood smoke that provokes asthma, lung and heart disease, and is a source of fine particulate matter (PM). The cancer agency of the World Health Organization recently added PM to it's Group 1 list of carcinogens, alongside plutonium, asbestos, radium, and tobacco smoke. Solutions may not come easy, but the township's response is unconscionable.

  • Matthew

    All wood burning should be banned. It is never OK. Wood smoke is carcinogenic. Wood smoke is cardiotoxic,. It kills people. It being a class I carcinogen (a known human carcinogen) it is in the same class as asbestos and radioactive substances. It doesn't matter what type of wood it is. It doesn't matter how dry the wood is. The smoke is always toxic and it is always a nuisance. The neighbor has every right to complain and the fact that the guy is ignoring his complaints and continuing to burn means he is a selfish psychopath.

    Thomas Morgan. Stop burning wood. You are an evil human being.

    Tallmadge Township: Change your laws to prevent the bullying, harrassment and assault of Mr Dooley and others like him.

    Mr Dooley: I wish you well and plenty of others have been in your position. Unfortunately no one will help you. You'll have to move because Mr Morgan is evil and Tallmadge Town is incompetent. You'll be happier in your new place. It will always be a kick in the guts. You have been wronged. I know just how it feels.

  • Sue

    Wood smoke is harful to everyone's health – especially those with asthma, COPD and heart issues. The small particles in the wood get deep down into everyone's lungs and the body has to work very hard to get them out – through the blood stream. If you have asthma and you don't think the smoke is hurting your health, think again. You may soon develop COPD on top of your asthma.

    I worry most about the health of any children in the neighborhood. Wood smoke triggers asthma attacks – and our children have no choice but to breath the polluted air that is presented to them.

    The person who is heating with wood should reconsider his heating choices soon and help clear the air.

  • Shirley

    So, this fellow thinks that saving a mere $100 is more important than his neighbor's health? In my opinion, Mr. Dooley should take this ignoramus to court and end his burning completely. What kind of neighbor fills the other with smoke and for what? Seems to me this is more like he is burning as a confrontational assault. What an evil man he is! Shame on him!

    • Ray

      May-be you should report the News Ms. Shirley, because I NEVER once heard the reporter state that Mr. Morgan thought saving $100.00 dollars a month was MORE important than his neighbor's health!
      Seems to me your whole comment is a confrontational assault, SHAME ON YOU!
      Shame on you SHIRLEY for calling a man that you know nothing about, except one neighbor's unsubstantiated slander as EVIL!
      Who are you to judge and condemn such a GOOD MAN as Mr. Morgan?
      Remember, Ms. Shirley as you are shaking & pointing your righteous finger at Mr. Morgan you have three of those fingers shaking & pointing back at your self!

  • Yup deal with it

    If he doesn't like smoke get out of the country. Just like these assholes I deal with every day "there are deer in my yard" no shit you moved in there back door you yuppie shit. If you don't like get out.

  • Linda

    Re: Neighbors Relationship Goes Up in Smoke

    How absolutely disheartening to read again about another innocent neighbor being forced to move from their home due to Woodsmoke emissions making them ill and suffer!

    The lack of regard from the Township fails in every way possible to protect this family from the horror of daily Woodsmoke Pollution. The Township Supervisor states “There is nothing they will do about it”. Would the township act in the same negligent manner if someone assaulted another community resident with a firearm, or a club or some other form of assault to another human? No, this would not happen because immediate action would be taken, assault would never be allowed! Yet the same laws are not being applied to Woodsmoke saturating and assaulting other neighbors.

    Woodsmoke pollution does not stop its toxic assault at one family. It drifts for distances, directly having a negative impact on everyone who breathe the cancer causing chemicals floating through the air and into the lungs and homes of innocent people!

    This is a shame and absolute disgrace that any community would allow this toxic form of woodsmoke assault toward another community resident.

    Mr. Morgan’s take on this issue lacks credibility when he states he is burning Maple, Cherry and Sassafras. There is no safe amount of woodsmoke to breathe!! Regardless of what type of wood is being burned or how it is being burned, toxic emissions continue to harm life, make people suffer and are a leading cause of premature death!

    Regardless of the wind direction, when one family is not receiving the woodsmoke polluted air, other families are being made ill. Mr. Morgan may be saving some money, but the outrageous amount of Health Care dollars being spent every year on the many woodsmoke-related illnesses is proof that there are no savings to anyone from burning wood as a fuel or recreational source. Cancer, Asthma, SIDS, COPD, STROKE, Mini-Stroke, cardiac and other diseases are associated with Woodsmoke pollution.

    Everyone in this community directly or indirectly is paying the price for the savings of another through their high risk of developing a woodsmoke-related illness. Innocent families are paying through the roof for another’s need to burn wood when all irrefutable science, medical and environmental data state that Woodsmoke is a silent killer!

    One family is being forced to move away to protect their life and health, but what about another family that moves into that home or area. They still will be smoked out due to lack of concern and laws from the community.

    What happens when the entire community moves out due to Woodsmoke polluted air?? Will you be next?? In a breath it could happen to you. Give it serious thought!!!

    Air Is Precious

    Protect It! Don’t Pollute It!!

    • Ray

      An Entire Community;
      Moves away because of wood burning?
      Really? Wood burning is a Toxic assault? Maybe you can explain to me why Wood Burning stoves, Fire Places & wood home heating furnaces are not only being installed in new homes but are considered an environmentally friendly option to the others?
      Please carry on about how this makes all the families in the neighborhood sick, maybe you can back up some of your simple ideas with some real facts instead of your theories.

    • George W Bush

      We left Tallmadge Township for a similar reason. According to the DEQ, it's illegal to burn leaves and grass clippings when the townships population is over 7500. Tallmadge is over that and refuses to enforce it. We lived in a subdivision, not the country, and leaf burning was considered acceptable. Take a ride this fall into Marne. It's a joke! People actually burn the leaves on the street because the houses are too close together. No carcinogens there!!!

  • David

    It is time to stop/end/prohibit the antiquated and air polluting action of burning wood. Woodsmoke (PM2.5) is an airborne killer to all who breathe it. Woodsmoke floating onto a neighbor's land and into their lungs is an assault and battery on that person. It is also trespassing. Let's make wood burning as extinct as the dinosaurs!

  • Deal with it

    Omg you hippie retards if you can't handle the country then leave. I'm sick of the world having to change just because people feel unhappy about something. Go to the city wait you may hear cars "noise pollution oh and smog" what about the lakeshore wait you may smell fish. What I'm saying is if you move by a farm are you going to complain about the smell of shit "you " prob but normal people that don't expect the world to change for them deal with it because they deal with it.

  • Ray

    Wow, Ban wood burning! Ban Coal! What the hell I'm I suppose to burn? The bodies of whinny ass neighbors?
    Really Mr. Morgan is a psychopath? What are you Mr. Dooley's Best-est of Friend?
    What is wrong with this world when a Man can't burn a few logs, in the dead of winter, to heat his home, without all of this fan fare, from a bunch whinny cry babies???
    If Mr. Dooley and his friends can't handle a brief whiff of western bound smoke, IN MICHIGAN and in the dead of winter, than maybe you are all living in the wrong STATE, and I'm not talking about the State of disillusion you are all living in! SMH!
    Move if you must, I'm sure Mr. Morgan will miss miss you bunches!