The Examiner

New Castle Considers Prohibition of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

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Citing excessive noise and carbon emissions, New Castle officials are considering legislation to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in town by 2021 and prohibit the use of all blowers from mid-May through September starting next year.

Rand Manasse, a town resident who delivered a presentation on behalf of the New Castle Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) last week, said use of the gas-powered machines contributes to potential hearing loss for landscaping company employees and respiratory problems for the general public, particularly young children and older adults, as a result of particle pollutants that are kicked up.

With 18 of the past 20 years being the warmest on record since 1850, New Castle should lead by example to reduce carbon emissions. One study revealed that using a gas-powered leaf blower for a half-hour is equivalent to driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck from New York to Alaska, Manasse said.

“Why should we pass the legislation? We should pass it for our Earth,” he said. “I think we are at that point in time. More importantly, we should pass it for the next generation.”

The proposed measure would call for any leaf blowers used in town to be electric or battery operated when the full law goes into effect on May 14, 2021. The two-year phase-in period would be for transition and educating the public, said Steve Wolk, the SAB chairman. The use of all leaf blowers would be prohibited each year from May 15 to Sept. 30.

Exempted entities and activities would include school district operations, pothole or paving operations, snow removal, country clubs and the town to maintain its recreation fields, according to a draft of the law.

Gas-powered leaf blowers, which run on a two-stroke engine, reach noise levels of 90 decibels, Manasse said. Electric or battery-operated blowers are typically at 75 decibels or less. An increase of 10 decibels doubles the noise level, he added.

Blowers that run on electric or battery power emit noise at a higher frequency, thereby limiting the distance the sound travels as well as producing a lower noise level, said Dan Mabe, founder and president of the Southern California-based American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), an organization that advocates for zero-emission and sustainable landscape maintenance strategies.

About 15 communities in Westchester have ordinances on the books or are considering laws to restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Most of the municipalities are in southern Westchester. Mabe said 136 municipalities in the United States and Canada have a leaf blower law on the books.

“Working in this industry, knowing how it’s damaged my hearing, the respiratory problems I have and then some of the numbness in both hands from operating the vibrating gas equipment, I can assure you on a human level this does exist,” Mabe said.

Last week, the Town Board opened the public hearing on the proposed local law with all but one of a handful of speakers supporting the legislation.

Resident Tracy Stein said she values the efforts town officials have made emphasizing environmental protection and sustainability and believes the public would get used to the restriction.

Another resident, Laura Fox, also applauded the board for considering the ordinance.

“It just seems like the overuse of these machines has gotten out of control and we really need to do something, so I support this ban,” Fox said. “I don’t think it goes far enough but thank you for everyone who is bringing this to the attention of our community and there needs to be more education to what it’s doing to our environment and our health.”

A dissenting opinion came from Chappaqua resident Judy McGrath. She pointed out that while other towns have restrictions on the books, the New Castle proposal is the only municipality that is proposing a permanent ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

McGrath said with about 70 percent of residential properties at least one acre in town, most residents can expect higher landscaping and maintenance costs.

“I understand that this is not only a cost issue, I truly do,” she said. “But why give people another reason not to buy a house here in New Castle with a permanent ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.”

Councilman Jeremy Saland said there were times when other activities or behaviors that seemed like second nature, such as smoking on airplanes, were banned because of health reasons.

“If this can work, and I believe that it can, it’s about doing the right thing,” Saland said.

The Town Board will reconvene the public hearing at its Nov. 13 meeting.


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