A blanket of dead leaves now covers the ground meaning leaf blowers are being used more frequently. It also means more residents signing Teale Phelps Bondaroff’s petition to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in the district.
Phelps Bondaroff presented council with a petition to ban leaf blowers in August citing several health concerns associated with gas powered leaf blowers.
Noise pollution from the two-stroke engines – which is bad for the environment – is the driving force behind the petition, but Phelps Bondaroff said there are many other ways the lawn-care machines can have an effect on health. Blowers also push particulate matter and dust into the air which can trigger allergies and respiratory issues.
The petition asks the District to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, create a program to recycle the gas-powered leaf blowers and regulate the use of electric leaf blowers so that the noise created is in compliance with the noise pollution bylaws.
Phelps Bondaroff pointed out that Saanich’s current noise suppression bylaw, written in 1993, states that continuous noise cannot go on for more than three minutes in a 15 minute period. Lawn mowers are the only exception. When he brought this up to a bylaw officer, he was told leaf blowers are included under the term lawn mower, but Phelps Bondaroff feels that the current wording isn’t clear enough to be enforceable.
Phelps Bondaroff says more than 300 people have signed the petition that he will formally present to Saanich council this winter. However, he’s also received several hateful comments from those he assumes haven’t read the petition in full. It’s just the gas powered leaf blowers that would be banned, he explained. Leaf blowers are necessary for several jobs and situations, he noted, but with the ban, people would have to turn to electric or battery powered options.
While the gas powered options can run for longer, the standard backpack model creates noise above 90 decibels and HealthLink BC emphasizes that sounds over 85 decibels are harmful. Each time the noise level goes up by five decibels, the sound is considered five times louder. This means that a leaf blower is five times louder than what is considered a safe noise level.
The WorkSafe BC Health and Safety manual for lawn maintenance employees suggests use rakes and brooms instead as they’re silent and can be “faster and more effective.”
Phelps Bondaroff hasn’t found a council member to champion the petition yet, but he’s hopeful.
Noise pollution and the associated health impacts are underappreciated, he said.
“Cities don’t need to be noisy and happiness and wellbeing should be a priority.”