What to do if my neighbors have 2 wood burning heat sources for their home and the toxic smelling smoke drifts toward our house constantly?

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What to do if my neighbors have 2 wood burning heat sources for their home and the toxic smelling smoke drifts toward our house constantly?

We believe they are burning pallet wood treated with formaldehyde. We have contacted many city offices ( code and health, fire dept, police zoning and the city council) with little or no resolution. These fumes cause me to have sinus problems much of the time, which impacts not only my physical well being, but my ability to preform my duties at my employment. Would this be considered a personal injury?

Asked on February 25, 2014 under Personal Injury, Minnesota


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

What to do if you have a complaint about a neighbor’s wood-burning appliance

The MPCA has limited ability to respond to individual wood smoke complaints. We encourage you to follow this process if you are having health or nuisance problems caused by a neighbor's smoky appliance.

1. Give your neighbor a chance to be a ‘good’ neighbor.  Don’t get angry, most people are responsible and willing to help if asked in a polite non-threatening manner.

Smoking Chimney - Photo from Washington State Dept. of Ecology

Calmly tell your neighbor what the problem is. You may find that your neighbor is not aware that they are affecting your property or your health. Give them a copy of one of the following documents:

2. Contact your local officials if talking to your neighbors does not yield a satisfactory result. You may want to consider asking other neighbors for support if they are also concerned about emissions from wood stoves.  Some cities have nuisance ordinances that allow them to respond to wood smoke complaints.  If this issue is perceived by the city to be a broad or ongoing problem, the city may be interested in adopting an ordinance that specifically addresses wood burning appliances.

Several cities in Minnesota have adopted such ordinances, some specifically for outdoor wood furnaces or boilers. Look at the file below to see examples.

The city could consider a wide range of options such as restricting the locations of chimneys, banning certain kinds of appliances, and making requirements for chimney (stack) heights or set back distances from property boundaries.

An example of a model ordinance for outdoor burning for local government, including outdoor wood-fired furnaces, open burning and refuse burning, is on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.

The U.S. EPA and the group, Northeast States for Coordinated Use Management, have also put together a useful set of model rules and regulations for outdoor wood boilers.

3. MPCA staff can provide further information about wood-burning appliances, if needed. Contact Mike Nelson at 651-757-2122, or use the Citizen Complaint Form.

Additional resources

Health effects of wood smoke


Answer: From what you have written you may have a nuisance and possibly a personal injury. Consult an attorney in your locality via attoneypages.com.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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