WASHINGTON — A burning issue is being addressed once again in the city.

Specifically, the open burning of landscape waste. Proponents say it's an efficient, cheap way to discard the waste. Opponents complain of health and quality-of-life issues caused by noxious, incessant smoke that sometimes creates a fog over portions of the city.

Washington Assistant Police Chief Jeff Stevens has proposed major changes to the city's open burning ordinance, which has been in place since 1989 and modified several times since then, following a lengthy discussion last week at a City Council committee of the whole meeting.

Stevens calls the changes "an attempt to recognize ... what middle ground there is in the debate (about open burning)."

The most prominent changes:

* Limit the burning of landscape waste to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October through May.

* Prohibit the burning of wet or green landscape material, which produces noxious smoke.

* Prohibit a smoldering fire, which produces significant smoke and doesn't efficiently burn materials.

* Protect recreational fires like bonfires, which, when done properly, produce little smoke.

* Require a city permit for a large fire.

A first reading of the revised open burning ordinance will be held Monday at a City Council meeting.

In a report last week to the City Council, Stevens said the Washington Police Department received 61 complaints about improper or offensive open burning in 2017 and 2018. There were complaints in every month except January.

"But it's likely additional complaints were addressed but not logged as an open burning complaint, and it's also common for a complainant to have multiple issues with improper open burning before making a report," Stevens said.

Most open burning complaints to the police department result in warnings, Stevens said. There's a maximum $500 fine for each offense in the ordinance.

Washington residents Beth Black and Amy Werner each described at the committee of the whole meeting their own and their families' health issues that were exacerbated by smoke from the open burning of landscape waste.

"The smoke even affects our inside air quality," said Black, who lives on Patricia Street. "Breathing is my only option. People who burn their landscape waste have other options of what they can do with it."

"We hear a lot these days about concerns for human rights," said Werner, who lives on Holborn Court. "I think there's one thing we can agree upon. We all have the right to breathe."

Several aldermen and Mayor Gary Manier were sympathetic after hearing from Black and Werner.

"Everyone has the right to breathe clean air," said Alderman Dave Dingledine.

"We need to have respect for our neighbors," said Alderman Jim Gee.

"I don't think we should ban open burning of landscape waste completely, but we need to take steps to address the problems," said Manier, who noted that open burning was the second agenda item at a City Council meeting in 2001 at his first meeting as mayor.

"We've been talking about this for a long time," Manier said.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.