Summit Council approves pilot program to ban gas-powered blowers

Photo Courtesy of Amy Cairns
Summit Common Council voted to approve an amendment to the municipal noise ordinance that will establish a pilot program, banning the use of gas-powered blowers from June 1 to Aug. 31 in Summit.

SUMMIT, NJ — Summit will be a little quieter this summer, thanks to Common Council’s 6-1 vote at its meeting on Tuesday, April 6, in favor of an amendment to the municipal noise ordinance that will establish a pilot program banning the use of gas-powered blowers from June 1 to Aug. 31 in Summit. Councilwoman Lisa Allen was the sole dissenting vote.

Common Council was expected to vote on Tuesday, April 20, after the press deadline, on a proposed amendment to the newly amended noise ordinance, to create a hardship exemption application for residents and business owners, said Summit city administrator Michael Rogers. The vote to approve the exemptions will be on Tuesday, May 4.

“Over the past several years, and with an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic this year, Common Council and city staff have received dozens of complaints about the daily frequency of gas-powered blower use from Summit residents,” Summit chief communications officer Amy Cairns said on Tuesday, April 19. “Concerns were expressed about noise, health issues and environmental pollution. With more people working from home, complaints about gas-powered blower noise, frequency of use and environmental impact have increased over the past year.”

According to a Summit FAQ sheet about the leaf blower ban, there are a number of health hazards due to their use; the sheet also explains why the proposed ban applies only to gas-powered blowers and includes information about hearing damage from high-decibel noise, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular problems. Use of this equipment releases a number of toxins and air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons. The FAQ sheet further states that these devices have a powerful blowing capacity and disperse more hazardous particulate matter that may include pesticides, fungal spores, pollen and toxic heavy metals than other blowers. Inhaling these toxic substances may be particularly hazardous to children, people with cardiac and respiratory conditions, and unprotected lawn service workers.

“Residents have been complaining about leaf blowers as far back as 2016,” Cairns said. “The number and frequency of complaints increased once COVID-19 lockdowns began last March and continued throughout the summer of 2020. Last fall, an ad hoc committee was formed by Common Council to study the possibility of restricting gas-powered blower use in our community.

“Members of the committee included two residents, two professional landscapers, two members of Common Council and one city staff member,” she continued. “They attended local regional meetings, gathering information on regulations imposed by neighboring communities and how those regulations impacted residents and landscapers both financially and in their ability to complete yard work efficiently. They researched the availability, cost and efficacy of alternative leaf-blowing equipment. The ad hoc committee’s recommendations informed the development of the pilot program and proposed amendments to the existing noise ordinance.”

Since there are real concerns about gas-powered leaf blowers, there are other towns on board with banning the blowers. Fortunately for landscaping companies, which may depend on leaf blowers, in light of this ban, there are other alternatives that can be used.

“Summit joins Montclair and Maplewood in banning the use of gas-powered blowers in some form,” Cairns said. “Other communities have reached out to members of Summit’s council to learn more about our ordinance. Electric or battery-powered blowers may be used for lawn cleanup, as well as bagging and blower attachments on lawnmowers. Landscapers who operate in Maplewood told members of the ad hoc committee that leaf blowers are less necessary during summer months.”

Council member at large Beth Little on Monday, April 19, said council was very pleased to implement the pilot program this summer and help to limit the adverse health effects associated with the use of gas-powered blowers.

“Council amended the noise ordinance and put in place restrictions that will be in effect during summer months after spring cleanup and before leaves begin to fall in September,” Council President Marjorie Fox said on Monday, April 19. “This pilot program will be effective in eliminating excessive noise and pollution generated by gas powered blowers, and will possibly add a bit more peace in more neighborhoods.”