By Katie Walker, Staff Writer

Ye with yard trash, rejoice. You can finally burn that devilish snarl of wisteria that you labored so mightily to sever from your fence. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has lifted the burn ban in 54 Georgia counties, including Morgan.

The annual ban forbids burning of organic material from May 1 to September 30 in 54 north Georgia counties. The ban is not to prevent wildfires, but to maintain clean air. In the Summer, when the atmosphere is thinner, burning in heavily-populated areas can create more ozone in the air we breathe.

According to the Georgia DNR Environmental Protection Division, Air Protection Branch, ozone is a major component of smog. The colorless gas is produced by sunlight when nitrogen dioxide reacts with organic substances such as hydrocarbons from car exhaust. Yard debris creates a hydrocarbon called benzopyrene, which is suspected to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke. Additionally, burning yard debris releases Volatile Organic Compounds and Particle Pollution (small bits of ash.) Both of these can cause breathing problems, especially in the young or elderly.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends composting yard debris, which can help remediate soil that has been polluted, destroy VOCs, and reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

Burning natural waste creates chemical reactions that can be harmful, more so with man-made trash such as plastics, printed materials, fiberglass, pressed wood, and anything that has been painted, coated or treated. Household garbage, lumber, tires, shingles, plastics, and other man-made materials are illegal to burn because of the hazardous chemicals this produces.

The Georgia Forestry Commission issues permits for hand-piled natural vegetation on their website, www.gfc.state.ga.us/online-permits, or by calling 1-877-OK2-BURN. Call the Morgan County office of the GFC to burn machine-piled natural vegetation, 706-343-5869. Permits are only good for the day they are issued, from 8 a.m. until dark.