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MADISON — Now that the cold and wintry weather has finally reached Wisconsin, commercial and industrial facilities are being reminded about the necessary steps to properly burn used oil in space heaters.
“These guidelines are in place to protect public health and the state’s natural resources,” said Ann Coakley, Waste and Materials Management Program director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “If businesses burn used oil in a space heater, there are requirements and limitations they should know about.”
Coakley said that, while many companies burn used oil to save money on purchasing new fuel, they must comply with state and federal regulations, especially when burning used oil from outside sources. A business or facility may accept used oil from other sources only if testing has shown the sources are “on-spec,” which means they meet the specifications outlined in the regulations.
These regulations are summarized in a DNR Burning Used Oil in a Space Heater fact sheet and cover such chemicals as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and total halogens (halogens are contaminants found in used oil).
“We limit the sources of used oil that go into space heaters because those units are not equipped with air pollution control devices,” added Coakley. “Space heaters must also be well maintained for proper burning. Black smoke is a sign that the space heater is not burning the used oil sufficiently.”
Facilities are exempt from the more stringent used oil marketing and burning requirements if all of the following conditions are met:
• the on-site space heater is designed to have a maximum capacity of not more than 500,000 BTUs per hour;
• the combustion gases from the heater are vented outside;
• the heater burns only used oil that the business or institution: generates on-site, or at other locations it owns or operates; receives directly from household do-it-yourselfers; or receives from farmers who generate an average of less than 25 gallons of used oil per month; and
• the used oil is not hazardous waste (note: mixing used oil with a hazardous waste may cause the entire mixture to be considered hazardous waste).
If all of the above four conditions are met, the space heater is considered “exempt.”
However, used oil from households collected by a second party, such as a municipal collection center, is no longer considered “household generated used oil” and is subject to stricter used oil regulation, including testing the oil for contamination levels, processing and/or burning it only in permitted units.