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Burning things like trees, residuals crops, fertilizer bags, livestock bedding and even garbage can be a routine part of operating a farm.

But navigating Maryland’s laws governing open burning can be confusing, and costly if you get it wrong.

It is always prudent to check with local authorities before you burn, but here’s some information that can help you know what to ask them.

What About Waste From Forest Management?

Outside of the limits of incorporated towns, waste from forest management is silvicultural or agricultural waste, and can be burned on site where it’s generated. Burning must be done in compliance with the Department of Natural Resources’ regulations and, of course, all of the other requirements of state and local authorities.

If you’re going to be burning in the woods, within 200 feet of a woodland, or in an area where there are flammable materials that could ignite and carry fire to woodland, then you can only burn waste from a forest in an open-air setting if:

1. There is a natural or constructed fire break at least 10 feet wide completely around the material to be burned that is free of flammable materials.

2. Adequate personnel and equipment are present to prevent the fire from escaping.

3. At least one responsible person remains at the location of the fire until the last spark is out.

4. The burning occurs between 4 p.m. and midnight. When the ground is covered with snow, though, the burning may occur at any time so long as the other requirements are met.

For any open air burn (or prescribed burn) that doesn’t comply with each and every one of these requirements, you will need to submit a plan to and obtain a permit from the Department of Natural Resources.

What About Solid Waste?

If what you’re going to be burning is “solid waste,” you have an additional set of regulations to follow.

Solid waste is any garbage, refuse, sludge or liquid from industrial, commercial, mining or agricultural operations or from community activities.

It includes scrap tires, organic material that’s capable of being composted, or recyclable materials that aren’t being recycled.

Solid waste also includes land-clearing debris like stumps, limbs, logs and brush, and construction and demolition debris derived from dwellings and other structures. A person may not engage in solid waste handling that, among other things:

1. Creates a nuisance, including encouraging infestation by insects, rodents or wild animals.

2. Pollutes the air.

3. Causes a non-permitted discharge of pollutants to waters of the state.

4. Impairs the quality of the environment.

5. Creates other hazards to public health, safety or comfort as may be determined by Maryland Department of the Environment.

Of course, you also must be burning for your use and your use alone. You cannot be collecting or accepting waste from others. There are strict regulations about operating as a public disposal, salvage or waste facility.

In addition, the burn site constitutes an unpermitted open dump unless the ash and other residuals are removed to a proper disposal site.

More Information

For more information about Maryland’s open burn laws, visit agrisk.umd.edu

Also, the Department of Natural Resources has information on open air burning at bit.ly/BurnDNR

More information about open burning of solid waste can be found in the Environment Department’s Fact Sheet at bit.ly/BurnMDE

Part One of this column ran in the May 1 edition.

Nicole Cook is an environmental and agricultural faculty legal specialist with the Agriculture Law Education Initiative at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

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