Leafblower mania

Hurricanes in Florida, air quality alerts throughout the country, the 11th worst ozone levels in the US right here in the Triangle. Global warming? We will wait a while if we are going to wait for the federal government to lead us toward a solution to this problem.

Last week we had "car free" day locally and it was a big success. Yesterday the New York Times reported that California had enacted legislation designed to cut emissions from automobiles this will be the most stringent anti global warming initiative ever enacted. (And by a state with a Republican governor.)

How do we keep the mo' going? Let's ban leaf blowers right here in Chapel Hill. Three reasons: pollution, NOISE, air borne particulate. Some 70 plus cities throughout our country have done this already, let's step up as a community and rid ourselves of these obnoxious machines. I wrote a column a couple of years ago in the Herald but their archives are impenetrable. www.NoNoise.org is one of the most complete sites I have found.

It is my intention to start a community discussion on this topic so that we end up with a solution that fits our town (and Carrboro, mebbe). I am petitioning the Town Council tomorrow night 9/27/04 7:00PM to consider banning gas powered leaf blowers. Come share your support or opposition.....



I hate the noise as much as you do Cam, but I don't think the town should get into the habit of outlawing specific devices. I would prefer a policy on noise (which already exists but perhaps is not inclusive of gas engine noise levels) rather than trying to regulate individual tools. Your other point about pollution is also important. But wouldn't it be better if the town 'encouraged' citizens to use electric tools instead of gas-powered tools? It might be unenforceable trying to regulate one gas guzzling tool while others, such as lawn mowers, cars, etc., persisted.

As I've learned through a trying to deal with speeding in my neighborhood, laws aren't of much use if there is no enforcement.

Hi Cam,
I hate those damn noisy machines as much
as anyone and I will never own one, even
though it means I have to do more work.
In our neighborhood, they
have changed autumn from a beautiful
time of year, crisp days with leaves falling,
to a deafening roar that makes it
unpleasant to sit outside.

That said, leaf blowers are used because
they move leaves and other similar debris
much faster than hand-held rakes do.
Since many if not most of the homes
in Westwood are now tended by
professional lawn services, we can
expect chamber-led opposition to a
proposed ban.

Snowmobiles and jet skis are equally
controvesial in many areas of the
country, and like them, there
must be a way to manufacture them
to operate more quiently, even if they
are somewhat less powerful and
efficient. It will take a number of
towns across the country to execute
these bans so that manufacturers will
make them work more quietly.

It is obvious that any
device that requires its user to wear
sound-proof ear muffs will bother
nearby people who don't immediately
gain from its use. Like Terri, I can't
see the town bringing out the noise
meters for this one, but since the
devices cannot be hidden during use,
that is hardly necessary.

I think that Chapel Hill ought to be
one of the leaders on this issue.
Go for it Cam!

I can think of a couple of reasons that leaf blowers should be specifically targeted:

1. Leaf blowers are so unnecessary. Raking is simply not that hard. Furthermore, raking is good exercise.

2. Leaf blowers are frequently used incorrectly and inefficiently - they will not move wet leaves and they are not intended to manage trash.

3. To the extent that they are used by professional lawn services, leaf blowers are reducing the number of jobs available.

I predict we will look at this in Carrboro, too, Cam.

My children and I agree-someone in our neighborhood gets up at first light and turns on a leaf blower and leaves (pun intended) it running until the sun goes down. This year seems especially noisy, perhaps because the leaves have been wet mostly or perhaps because the lawn service for the tri delts blow leaves into my yard. Anyway, I have decided to do something besides (or perhaps  in addition to) complaining, I am gonna build a leaf vaccuum that will make less noise than a blower and will actually accomplish something.....So how is it going in Carrboro?Cam

The NC Waste Awareness and Reduction Network has launched a new long-term campaign to reduce global warming. For more info on the Power Reduction Campaign see their site:


What's the difference between the noise and/or pollution from a leaf blower and a lawn mower? What about snow blowers? What about go carts? My point was that legislation should be directed at the offending quality--not at a specific product.

Yes, ban them all, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, wood chipperrs, weed wackers, all of them. Then start more natural spaces filled with local plants. We have to look beyond short term convience and profit to long term livability.

I hope the leaf blower ban passes and that it is a slippery slope leading to all lawns disappearing. Not only will it lead to a quieter place but one where it is much more easy to escape to the woods. See http://www.ecolandscaping.org/

And what about the pollution from chain saws, lawn mowers, wood chippers, and weed eaters? Those seem pretty similar to leaf blowers.

Instead of a punitive situation, why don't we think about ways to
encourage people to purchase and use lawn and garden equipment that is
quieter and less polluting? I think positive incentives and community
education would accomplish a lot. When OWASA offered water saving
showerheads, I definitely got them and installed them. They didn't have
to ban regular ones, instead they offered me a win-win situation.

I agree with Terri, targeting specific products isn't going to accomplish
as much as working to reduce the offending quality.

Because you folks would really like to ban cars but won't be able to pull that off, you focus on leaf blowers. It's lame that you think you can regulate everything you don't like in this world. It's dangerous having elected officials like Cam Hill, and Mark Chilton in the area, and I hope more people will realize that when casting ballots.

I just can't get into the purported logic of finding benefit in banning leaf blowers.

-It is naive to think that this will increase employment. Instead, it will raise the cost to consumers of landscapping services, drive local businesses out of the Town, and will in fact create more low wage jobs in a community which cannot support what it has now;

-The exact same arguements could be applied to banning gas powered lawn mowers. Given the much higher number of lawn mowers in use, lets go back to the manual push mowers. Talk about good exercise;

-As someone who cares for their own yard, a leaf blower improves the quality of my life, giving me more time to take my dog to the dog park, go on walks and so forth. Raking would require 10 times the amount of time to do the job;

-Electric leaf blowers produce significant noise, and just increase the fees paid to OWASA;

-Can the Town Council not spend time their time more productively, say discussing initiatives which will actually help the community (i.e. downtown development, transportation, crime and safety...). This just sounds like another "Red Hearing" requiring expensive diversion of Town Staff time;

-Who is going to enforce this, our already taxed police force, which by the way, is facing a notable increase in crime;

-Loud music coming from vibrating cars, or high pitched motorcycle engines un-nerve me, but I'm not calling to ban these.

Much of this is part of our progession as a society. I can remember as a kid (fondly) smelling the smoke of burning leaves. Not good of course, and now not allowed in many communities. This was replaced by valid service alternatives such as pick-up of yard waste. Is the Council going to rake my yard? I'd rather avoid the tax increase and do it myself with the modern wonder - - - a LEAF BLOWER.

You have obviously either never chopped a tree down with a chainsaw or else never chopped a tree down with an ax.

Sorry, have done both the chainsaw and ax thing. A proud Eagle Scout am I!

I love the outdoors, the peace, the quiet, and my YARD TOOLS...

Anyway, I don't get your point.

Bobby, A quick questions:

If, and I don't think it will, a leaf blower ban "will in fact create more low wage jobs" why is it "naive to think that this will increase employment"? Obivously not all jobs are created equal, but I don't understand what you are saying.

You get your power from OWASA?

Why do you have such a large yard that you feel compelled to get a leaf blower? Or alternatively, why do you need your yard to resemble a golf course?

I assume that you agree there must be a line in the sand somewhere and that we are just talking about exactly where that line is? Or do you favor the ilberterian approach of unlimited noise generation and say that people that want queit should buy huge lots in the country?

First your question of jobs. OK, lets say a landscapper is paying 3 people to clear leaves from an acre of land, and that labor cost is $500 for the job. Then after the banning of electric leaf blowers it hypothetically takes 9 people to do the job in the same time. The landscapper has some choices (1) Charge the customer $1,500, assuming someone will pay three times more than what they were once paying (2) Take his services to another County which lets him use the tools of his trade, driving up costs charged by those landscapper left behind because of limited competition, or (3) Seeing as the landscapper will lose business at the higher charge, he/she needs to reduce costs, and may have the 3 people clear leaves for three days and pay them less on per day. So, IF you get more workers, you reduce the wage and opportunities for day laborers even further than what it is now.

No, the last time I looked, OWASA does not provide electricity, but the power company does and my initial point still applies.

I do like for my yard to look nice and pleasant, so I do take good care of it. The golf course approach is a good idea; just need to put out more pesticides and fertilizer I guess. In terms of size, I actually have a pretty small grassy area of my own, but I like to blow as much dust, dirt and leaves up as I can, annoying my neighbors intentionally with bad behavior and noise.

As far as a drawing a line, definately there is a line somewhere in terms of noise and pollution generation. My point is the leaf blower debate is a waste of time. Our Council members need to do something meaningful.

For those who didn't watch/listen to last night's council meeting, two industry representatives assured the council that the EPA has new, stricter regulations on "Nonroad Engines, Equipment, and Vehicles" which includes leaf blowers. These new regulations go into effect next year and will significantly improve the carbon and particulate problems of gas powered leaf blowers. I think I also heard that noise will be less of a problem too.

Here's the EPA regulation:

For Josh--I use an electric leaf blower that vacuums up leaves and mulches them. Much healthier for the soil and the plants in that soil to mulch leaves rather than to leave them lay. It's always a toss up for me whether to use the leaf vacuum or the lawn mower. Like Bobby, I too have a large yard (wooded except for a small section). Why? Because it's in a neighborhood I can afford! Not all affordable housing is directly in town.

Mark, raking isn't all that hard unless you're old or physically compromised, and works OK as long as you have enough time to do it.

Anita -

Raking is indeed hard work, even for folks who regularly work in their yard. One problem is that raking takes multiples of 5 - 10 the amount of time (and effort) compared to a leaf blower. This is a modern tool which should be available to folks. I suppose I could agree with Cam's thought of a timeframe, but it should be not different than what builders are restricted to in terms of their work; of course, I don't hear anyone blowing their leaves prior to 7 am or late at night. I have more of a problem with dogs barking during off hours than I ever would with someone using their leaf blower anytime during the day or evening.

Cam & Mark,

Can either of you provide actual numbers showing the actual environmental impact of gas power leaf blowers, lawn mowers, week eaters, chainsaws, and the like. It seems obsurd to just outright ban any of these items. If people had some form of incentive for switching to electric equipment, more people would do so. Considering the number of environmental grants that are available a much more proactive approach would be to establish a trade-in program where people could get electric equipment for free by trading in their gas powered.

I think that discouraging the use of leafblowers is a good thing. Park your SUV and put the leafblower away. Its just wasteful. However, do I think that it is governments job to ban them? No. By the way, tell the people that are doing yard work for a living to "get some excercise" and rake the yards they take care of. I would think they might respond that by working in the sun all day, they are getting plenty as it is. Maybe we need to look at the overall problem of why people think that they need to make yards look like golf courses. Why is that beautiful? IMO, the question is, how can we discourage the use of pesticides, fertilizers, leaf blowers and all other lawn care equipment harmful to the environment, w/o unfairly shifting the burden to people doing difficult work for little money?

Does Chapel Hill have any laws prohibiting "wild" lawns? Can someone just let unruly plants take over?

Bobby, good to learn that you are an Eagle Scout! And I am glad you take my point, even if I am wrong about your familiarity with axes and chainsaws! ;)

Others, note that I said Carrboro would look at it, okay?

So we are all just discussing here, right?

So check out the next two posts. I apologize in advance for posting such long material copied from another website - www.nonoise.org - but others above seem unwilling to check that site out per Cam's suggestion, so I am copying the most pertinent information here.

Grandmother Proves Rake and Broom as Fast as Leaf Blowers
(January 8, 1998 press release from Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles)

In fighting the ban on gas powered leaf blowers gardeners have argued that it would take them twice as long to do jobs if they had to use rakes and brooms. But Diane Wolfberg, a Palisadian grandmother in her late 50s, proved them wrong in tests conducted by the Department of Water & Power Leafblower Task Force last Thursday.

In three tests involving gas powered leaf blowers and battery powered leaf blowers, Diane cleaned the areas using rakes or brooms faster than any of the battery powered blowers and almost as fast as the gas powered leaf blowers and she did a better job in cleaning up the areas.

The Task Force, formed at the direction of the Los Angeles City Council, is composed of two representatives from the gardeners' associations and one representative each from the landscape contractors association, the dealers, DWP, the Department of Parks and Recreation, General Services, the City Council, and the homeowners. It is evaluating electrical alternatives to the gas powered leaf blowers. When it was proposed that the electrical equipment be tested against gas powered leaf blowers which would be the baseline for comparison, the homeowner representative, Jack Allen, also of the Palisades, suggested that rakes and brooms be included in the comparison.

Wolfberg, who like Allen, is a member of Zero Air Pollution (ZAP), volunteered. In the first test, which required each participant to clean a pebbled cement patio area approximately 100 square feet in size with eight chairs placed on the patio, diminutive Wolfberg cleaned the area in two minutes and 30 seconds. The gas powered leaf blower operated by a large, well muscled gardener cleaned the area in two minutes but like all the leaf blowers, did not clean the area of small nuts or leaf stems, something Wolfberg was able to do.

In a second test involving the moving of paper cups and wadded paper down a 50 foot slope and back up again, she was as fast as the gas powered leaf blower and faster than the electric blowers. In the third test, requiring the cleaning of a heavy bed of pine needles and dirt down a thirty foot concrete ramp, she was the fastest and the cleanest. The leaf blowers all sent columns of damp dirt flying into the air as much as five or six feet.

Wolfberg's performance did not impress the gardeners but did impress others who had been convinced that using rakes and brooms was not feasible. The representative from DWP told Wolfberg that she had won him over.

Air Pollution From Leaf Blowers

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) says air pollution costs our state billions of dollars annually in health care and crop and building damage. It irritates eyes and throats, harms lungs, and causes cancer and premature death (1), including sudden death from heart attacks. Ozone*, a gas, is Sacramento's worst air pollution problem (2), and we also have unhealthy levels of liquid and solid particulate matter (PM**) (3). Blowers, especially gasoline-powered, contribute to both of these. Emissions from the two-stroke combustion engine include PM as well as gaseous carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons (CO, NOx, and HC). Leaf blowers also raise (entrain) dust from the ground. And evaporative emissions of fuel occur during the refueling process, which sometimes spills gas on the operators, and from the fuel tank. Comparisons that exclude some of these could understate the problem.

Fine PM2.5 particles, which are man-made and do not occur in nature, evade the body's defense systems. According to the EPA and ARB they can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks, cause or aggravate bronchitis or other lung disease, and reduce our ability to fight infections (4).

Leaf blower motors are inordinately large emitters of CO, NOx, HC, and PM according to a study conducted for the ARB (5). Two-stroke engine fuel is a gasoline-oil mixture, thus especially toxic. Particles from combustion are virtually all smaller than PM2.5. According to the Lung Association, a leaf blower causes as much smog as 17 cars.

Street dust includes lead, organic carbon, and elemental carbon according to a study conducted for the ARB. The Lung Association states "the lead levels are of concern due to [their] great acute toxicity... Elemental carbon...usually contains several adsorbed carcinogens." Another study found arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and mercury in street dust as well (6). The ARB states that a leaf blower creates 2.6 pounds of PM10 dust emissions per hour of use (7), and based on this a report from the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District states that leaf blower dust is responsible for two percent of our PM (8). Blowers are widely used in residential areas where many people are exposed.

The EPA and ARB, in their brochure "Particulate Matter Air Pollution: A threat to our health" advise us, "Avoid using leaf blowers." The multi-agency Best Available Control Measure Working Group agrees.

In November 1997 the Los Angeles Times reported on studies by Kaiser and the California EPA showing a correlation between levels of air pollution and hospital admissions for cardiopulmonary problems (9). These reinforce conclusions reported in the August 1997 issue of Consumer Reports, which described the effect on preschool children as "especially startling." (10) Fifty thousand people in the city of Sacramento are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because of asthma or cardiopulmonary disease (11). Healthy adults and children who play or exercise vigorously are also at risk (1).

Sacramento must reduce its smog-forming emissions by 40 percent by the year 2005 in order to achieve healthier air (3), yet the Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association has asked its California members to lobby against stricter emission regulations developed by the ARB for 1999 (12).

Ozone, three atoms of oxygen in one molecule, is formed by reaction of hydrocarbons (sometimes referred to as "volatile organic compounds," or VOCs) and NOx in sunlight. It is desirable in the upper atmosphere, but irritating to living tissue.
*PM air pollution consists of particles small enough to remain suspended in the air for a significant period of time (hours to days) unless washed out by rain or otherwise removed. PM is often described by its particle size as PM 10 or PM2.5, a number that refers to maximum diameter in microns. (Thus, PM2.5 is a subcategory of, and contained within, PM10.)

"The California Air Resources Board", a brochure currently available at the ARB offices, 2020 L Street, Sacramento CA 95814.
"Spare The Air: Improving Air Quality In The Sacramento Region", published summer 1997 by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, which says, "During the summer, we are among the worst areas in the nation for ozone air pollution" and advises us, "Don't use gasoline-powered lawn and utility equipment..."
California Air Resources Board: Status Report 1995-96.
"Particulate Matter Air Pollution: A threat to our health", Best Available Control Measure (BACM) Working Group, January 1997.
American Lung Association of Sacramento - Emigrant Trails, "Fact Sheet: Leaf Blower Air Pollution Impacts Study Results."
County of Fresno, Inter Office Memo, October 14, 1982.
July 9, 1991 letter from Terry McGuire, Chief, Technical Support Division, ARB, states, "We estimate that a single leaf blower reentrains about 5 pounds of particulate matter in an hour, about half of which is PM10."
Reported in the Sacramento Environmental Commission's "Leaf Blower Recommendations From the Subcommittee", October 27, 1997.
Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1997, "Alerts Urged at Lower Smog Levels".
Consumer Reports, August 1997, page 36, "Air Quality Special Report: Clearing the air". In this long, forcefully written, informative article, the magazine reports that, "Outdoor air--even air that meets present pollution standards--still can be hazardous to your health." The article explains that the scientific evidence is "remarkably consistent" and significant, in spite of assertions to the contrary by polluting industries. And it says that industry typically threatens ruinous cost increases if new regulations are imposed, "but when regulations have changed anyway, the predicted economic disasters haven't materialized."
Sacramento Bee, 1997 (exact date unknown), "Capital-area air labeled bad but legal". The article said 152,000 people in Sacramento County suffer from chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma, or ischemic heart disease. We assume the city's per capita rate matches the county's.
Sacramento Bee's California Life, January 17, 1998, "Garden equipment group steps on the gas".

What would be the delta if gas leaf blowers were banned and then landscapers ran gas generators to power their electric leaf blowers?

California also bans (but doesn't enforce) SUVs over 6,000 tons on residential roads and using a computer while in the front seat of a car; DC bans talking on cellphones while driving. There are good environmental and safety premises behind these bans--as with the gas powered blowers. But where do you draw the line? I suggest that you start by deciding on the values you want to promote, then identify the most egregious violators of those values, then set policy. Starting with a policy in the absence of publicly endorsed values (another election?) just sets the community up for yet another battle.

The values behind banning gas powered blowers appear to be noise reduction and reduction in air pollution. Are these tools the primary source of noise and air pollution in this community? Does anyone know (have real rather than perceived data)?

I don't know about other neighborhoods in town, but I see mostly electric blowers in my subdivision (if they chose to even blow at all). I use my electric blower only to clear residual grass clippings from my driveway and gutters (you know, the un-rakeable stuff). I've found in the past that I prefer to rake the leaves out of my itty bitty 1/4 acre tree-laden lot because the blower takes too much time and I try to be a courteous neighbor (and it's worth a good sweat). Not to mention that playing with your kid and dog in a pile of fresh raked leaves is just plain fun!

Since this thread came about I've taken more notice of who blows what and how around town. Most gas blowers I see are on commercial projects that I visit, in-town greenway upkeep or on campus.

Therefore, I can see making gas powered blowers off limits to homeowners in small lot subdivisions. But maybe make an exception for large multi-acre commerical landscaping (such as the The Town of CH or UNC). After all, we do love and should maintain our greenways.

Would Chapel Hill and Carrboro consider eliminating leaf blowers from their own grounds departments, as a test run and, of course, to reduce pollution?

This ban proposal seems a bit random to me, but that's not to say it's a bad idea, either.

Dan Coleman's column in today's CHH had data on gas leaf blowers. Given that data, I'll ask my question again: What would be the delta if gas leaf blowers were banned and then landscapers ran gas generators to power their electric leaf blowers?

PS: Dan, can you get them to give your column a link on the opinion page?

I own a gas backpack blower, and I knew they were loud, but didn't realize how polluting they are. But no more so than chain saws, string trimmers, outboards or anything else with a 2 cycle engine. And all together, they amount to only a faction of what SUV's produce in Chapel Hill every day. I only run it maybe six hours a year. I can't imagine, if all the leaf blowers in the state went away, we could measure the difference.

I was interested to read the particulars of the human vs. blower test. I couldn't figure out how a rake could be faster than a blower. Now I know why. 100 square feet is a very small area. Try a quarter acre and let's see which is faster. A better test for our area would be to clear leaves from a lawn.

At any rate, I take a dim view of a government ban. Isn't that a tad micro-managing of our lives? Let council members who drive fuel efficient cars cast the first vote. But I would support day and time limitations. The town could be divided into regions, and days assigned to each, so that contractors could work all week moving from region to region. And allow everyone a few hours on Saturday, for the weekend warriors.

If a ban were imposed, I would be in a fix. I have six big trees in my lawn, with more around it. Leaf cleanup is a huge job each year, even with the blower (and some raking of big piles; rakes do that better). I don't want my front lawn to turn into an overgrown field. I could cut the trees down, but I like them and cutting them would be expensive. But I don't see any good alternative. Raking would be too much, I think. Some trees would have to go, sorry to say.

To answer Fred's question (or try): Generators are 4 stroke engines and as such are quieter and (I believe) less polluting than the 2 stroke engines used on leaf blowers. I suspect mere gas would be consumed because using gas to generate electricity is inherently less efficent than using gas to do the designated chore in the first place.
Leaf blowers are noisier than other yard implements for two reasons: they are two stroke motors (unlike lawnmowers and some weedeaters) and the fans they use generate a high pitched whine that is especially bothersome.
Leafblowers have only been around about 25 years so their elimination can hardly be characterized as the return to the dark ages that people suggest. Government is not the solution to the problem, technolgy could be. If the blowers were made quieter and they were made more useful (they collected rather distributed leaves) they might become acceptable; IMO the negatives outweigh the positives at this point.
Will R. has the ultimate point....why do our yards have to look like our living rooms? Most leaf blower use is not in the fall but during the rest of the year when folks use them just to blow dust around (and annoy their neighbors). Last Wednesday the Town of CH had a crew in the old cemetary mowing and blowing off each headstone....talking about desecration and waking the dead.
This is what I do: I mow my grass and leaves at the same time. This mulchs the leaves where they fall. The town does not have to pick up my leaves and they do not clog the landfill...
Finally, If anyone were to play music at the same volume as a leaf blower, the neighbors would have the cops on it like stink on ....

Thanks for asking, Fred. The Herald does not seem at all interested in keeping their web site thorough or up to date.

When the leaves first start to fall, I do something similar. I have a bagging mower. I suck up the leaves and add them to my compost pile. But when they really start to drop, I can't go more than six feet before the bag is filled. I'd be doing more emptying than mowing. And mulching this quantity of leaves would add such a mulch layer to my lawn it would kill it. I'm talking a _lot_ of leaves. It's either the leaves or the lawn. I blow them into the surrounding woods (on my own property), not by the street.

(By the way, I don't believe leaves don't go into the landfill. They are chopped, partially composted and sold by the truck load as mulch.)


If you want to teach people how to do gardening, there are two radio shows that play locally about the subject.

People do not elect officials for this purpose. In a free country, we all deal with our leaves the way we wish.


The Town of Chapel Hill has a noise ordinance (its online but in f:

Sec. 11-39. Maximum permitted steady-state sound levels and sound pressure levels.
(a) No person or group of persons shall operate or cause to be operated any source of sound in such a manner as to create a root mean square (rms) steady-state sound level that exceeds the limits set forth either in Table 1 or in Table 2 when measured at any point on the boundary planes of the property line from which the sound originates, or beyond.


Before proposing new legislation, it would be advisable to ask the police to test a variety of gas leaf blowers to determine whether or not they fall within the towns current acceptable levels.

I can appreciate your comment, from a civil libertarian point of view. But I wouldn't want to live in a town where people could make as much noise as they want, any time they want. Would you? There are very few things in life that are truly "public goods." If I use a public park picnic table, that's a table no one else can use until I'm done. Likewise, if I make noise, it takes away someone else's quiet.

Anyway, I think Cam was just trying to discuss alternatives. In a neighborhood with smaller yards and fewer trees, perhaps blowers do seem unnecessary. But I have 1.5 acres, with millions of leaves. I can also operate my blower farther away from my neighbors, though I'm sure they hear me.

That's why I think day of week and time of day restrictions on really noisy equipment (blowers, chain saws, etc) is not a bad idea. I like my peace and quiet when I go outside, too. We could get the noisy work out of the way at the same time.

It seems odd to me that Cam Hill is griping about leaf blowers when earlier this year he was so adamant about keeping the airport open for the benefit of AHEC. Certainly, these planes that fly over our neighborhoods and schools cause more air and noise pollution than the odd power tool. Get real, Cam. And quit using your position on the Town Council as a power base for your own personal agenda.

- Doc Jimmy

I was never adamant about keeping the airport open, only that we not spend time dealing with a plan that assumed it was closing.

Cam - In your resolution earlier this year to discourage town planners from working with UNC on Carolina North, you stated:

"Whereas, the health care of thousands of North Carolinians throughout the state depends on the continued vitality of the AHEC program that flies out of the Horace Williams Airport..."

That sure sounds to me like you're advocating to keep the airport up and running - even though just about everyone in CH knows that 95% of Horace Williams' air traffic isn't AHEC-related at all, but fatcat businessmen and alumni using it for their own very non-health-related reasons - like sporting events and personal business.

If you'd done your homework, you'd have realized this was the case and advocated for AHEC's relocation to RDU - a perfectly reasonable alternative that would save our community from considerable noise and air pollution.

I'd be a lot more likely to listen to your gripes about leaf blowers and such if you took the time to address the more important issues correctly.

Reading the rest of the resolution one learns that the line quoted merely demonstrates why the airport isn't closing any time soon.....this resolution merely stopped town staff from working on incomplete plan, it neither supported or condemned the airport. The "fatcats" and the legislature are the ones who are keeping it open. Of course why would someone who is afraid to use their name in a post be interested in the truth.
Do some homework yourself and realize that banning/restricting leafblowers has lots of support both in this community and nationally.
By "correctly" do you mean addressing issues in the same way that the unknown "you" does?

Cam - I don't understand the importance you attach to people identifying themselves beyond being concerned Chapel Hill citizens who are speaking out in good faith. Unlike yourself, the politically-savvy elected official, we have no power base with which to protect ourselves. So just call us "the little guys," that should do just fine.

Uh, "Doc," you can call yourself anything you want, but as long as you conceal your identity we don't know if you are a Southern States employee or an leaf-blower-industry lobbyist from DC. So you can expect that your opinions will taken as credibility-optional by many of us.

credibility - none.

I was wondering last weekend as I was in my driveway washing my 2004 Toyota SUV...my Country music station was quite load as I enjoyed being outdoors on such a beautiful day, listening to my music and doing routine chores. Soon I would be blowing (and raking and mowing/bagging my leaves) What was I thinking? What if my neighbor disliked my country music being played at a volume which was annoying him (the volume and the music)? Could we be looking at an ordinance which controlled additional types of sounds eminating from our own property.

In terms of the polution issue with blowers, I still don't get it. Fred Black asks a legitimate question and others have posted important comments (myself too) about the negative economic impact. Do we have our priorities straight on this issue, or are we just trying to make a point. And please, please, please, don't use California as an example of doing things the right way on such issues. Wrong comparison in my view.

By the way, the evil satan, the SUV term keeps coming up...my SUV gets more than 20 mpg, runs on regular unleaded, and is engineered to 2004 emission standards. I'd guess that my vehicle is less poluting that many, many cars on the road, including smaller cars which are older, much less large cars from the 70's still on the road.

My Honda Civic gets 40 mpg, gets good safety reports, doesn't block anyone's view when they are behind me, and requires much less energy to build (materials). If I am in an accident with another small car, we are both likely to walk away. If I am in an accident with one of the many local SUV drivers who believe they own the road, I'm liable to get squashed when they rollover on me. And most amazing of all--I can transport as many people as my friend who drives an Isuzu Rodeo. Her only advantage is when she is hauling stuff--a few times a year.

My point precisely, there are cars which get better and less mileage that SUVs, and yet many get off the subject on what is important to the issue. Right now, that is set by the government and emission standards. Of course, these can be made more restrictive.

Perhaps we settle this with all being required by law to drive the same car, same color, same interior, same everything. It would just be so much easier. We need more laws and less choice - - - lets ban all vehicles which get less than say 30mpg on the road, and see if people can afford to get a car.

And now we are talking about the "views" on the road and the quality of driving for SUVs - - - SUV drivers don't own the the market in terms of poor driving skills.

The Chapel Hill News reported yesterday that small engines like those in leaf blowers contribute to about 10% of the nation's hydrocarbon emissions. That's certainly significant, but it'd be interesting to know what percentage of that is from leaf blowers. The article didn't give examples of other types of small engines in frequent use, but I'm guessing lawn mowers, jet skis (which burn fuel like crazy), maybe ATVs (?). I wonder if the local governments would consider banning other small polluting engines.

I guess I'd like to see the local governments address the issue by starting with the bigger picture--how can we make our communities less polluted and more liveable?--and then figure out which machines have alternatives and think about banning those. Perhaps someone has done that and I'm just not aware.

And, I'm also wondering why folks aren't willing to let the new EPA laws kick in. What's the rush when there are new regulations coming into play soon?

I do think my proposal that the towns eliminate them from their own grounds departments first is not unreasonable.

I agree with Terri's earlier comments:
> I suggest that you start by deciding on the values
> you want to promote, then identify the most egregious
> violators of those values, then set policy.
> Starting with a policy in the absence of publicly endorsed values (another election?)
> just sets the community up for yet another battle.

We should identify the attributes of leaf blowers which folks find problematic and quantify what levels are unacceptable. Then we can go about setting policy with the appropriate community discussion and encourage the manufacturers to address the shortcomings.

Sounds like the primary concerns are:
-Time of day that blowers are used

We should also consider individuals who have medical problems (such as repetitive strain injuries) which may allow use of backpack blowers but preclude the repetiveness of sweeping or raking. Will waivers be granted? What would the process be?


I lost some of my ability to hear while in the military (I was assessed to have a disability), because I spent too much time down on the artillery gun line without hearing protection. I was interested in how that happened, because I always wore hearing protection when we were shooting the big, 155mm guns. A hearing specialist told me that it was, in fact, my exposure to the 105mm guns, the sound of which comes across at a higher frequency, that explained my hearing loss. Frequency, more then decibel level, was what hurt my ears.

I've used electric and gas-powered blowers, and my unscientific estimate, based on my experience, is that electric-powered blowers operate at a higher pitch (frequency).

Cam, I find the noise made by Harley Davidsons to be offensive--will you ban them as well? Also, I hear cars honking their horns on occassion--I'd like to see that banned as well. My neighbor was using his lawn mower last week while I was tying to take a nap--could you ban lawnmowers and insist that everyone use a goat? It would be better for the environment too.

At Chapel Hill's Town Council meeting on Monday night the second agenda item (scheduled for 7:05 PM) will be a public forum on Consideration of Regulation of Leaf Blowers and Other Powered Lawn Equipment.
While an outright ban appears to be impossible there is the potential for some restrictions. I would like us to consider restricting the hours of use and maybe how close to the public right of way they would be allowed.

So, if you have any thoughts on this issue (pro or con) NOW is your chance to be heard.
There is a three minute time limit so you don't have to give a speech (council members appreciate brevity, at least from citizens) just voice your opinion.
Remember, thirty years ago the idea of restricting smoking in public was considered "out there"........



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