The city of Montreal is fast-tracking its plan to ban open fireplaces within city limits.

On Wednesday, city councillors Elsie Lefebvre and Real Menard presented the updated plan which will be introduced at a city council meeting on Aug. 17.

The revised plan would prohibit the use of fireplaces as of Oct. 1, 2018, however residents will be allowed to use wood-burning stoves that meet strict environmental guidelines.

The changes come after public hearings by Montreal's Environmental Commission which recommended allowing wood-burning stoves that met the same regulations as the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States.

The original plan also called for a complete ban on fireplaces and stoves as of 2020.

"Heating by wood is a source of pollution. It is one of the principal causes of winter smog," said Menard.

The city's own evaluation of air quality shows that the majority of days rated as having poor air quality within the city of Montreal were caused by a single restaurant with a wood-burning oven. 

The 2014 report into Montreal air quality showed the pizzeria near air quality monitoring Station 13 was responsible for 39 of Montreal's 63 poor air quality days.

Ten smog days were registered, all in winter months, which are blamed on the use of fireplaces in and around Montreal.

The new regulations proposed by the city would not affect restaurants that rely on wood-burning ovens.

Residents will have to inform city

The bylaw will oblige the owners of the estimated 85,000 wood stoves and fireplaces in Montreal to notify the city within 120 days of the bylaw being approved by city council.

After Oct. 1, 2018, homeowners will only be allowed to use wood-burning stoves that release less than 2.5 g/hour of fine particulate matter.

The bylaw will prohibit the use of all residential wood-burning stoves and fireplaces during a smog alert beginning this year, however there will be an exception if an electricity failure lasts for three hours or more.

Fines for those who don't respect the new rules are as high as $4000.

While soot and particulate matter released by burning wood is a key cause of air pollution, especially in winter, the leading cause of poor air quality is dust kicked up by cars and trucks.

City officials say transportation is responsible for 45 per cent of air pollution in Montreal, while burning wood causes 39 percent of winter smog.

The number of bad air days caused by road dust increases in winter as abrasives and salt are scattered on roadways.

Air pollution clearly leads to health problems, said Lefebvre.

“Each year, thousands of people have health problems, some diseases, asthma, pulmonary disease - people are dying from smog and problems with the air,” she said.

Not soon enough: opposition

The city of Montreal isn't getting these rules into place fast enough, argues Guillaume Lavoie, a councillor with Projet Montreal.

“People from all different parties recommended we move very fast, as fast as October 2016. Now the administration is responding not by an administrative standpoint, but by a politically calculated one. Suddenly it’s going to be after the next election,” he said.