GUEST OPINION: Banning leaf blowers

  • Santa Rosa city worker Matt Rapisardo (cq) clears a leaf-covered sidewalk along Summerfield Road with a blower on Tuesday afternoon, October 25, 2005. (The Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

"During the countless hours I've spent at city parks with my four children," Lisa Summers of Sonoma recently wrote to her City Council, "nothing in my mind stands out as a more constant and insidious disruption to the quality of life in the valley than the ever-increasing use of leaf blowers."

Summers requested that the blowers – also know as debris blowers, since they kick up much more than leaves – be banned. The council is scheduled to discuss blowers at its Wednesday meeting.

"In light of the ongoing BP oil spill," Summers wrote her elected officials, "I ask you to take a hard look at the frivolous use of gas-powered tools where safe, quiet and environmentally friendly alternatives exist." She apparently had brooms and rakes in mind.

On the other side of the county, in Sebastopol, Councilman Guy Wilson brought the idea of a blower ban before the council, at the request of residents, in November. The city manager is currently drafting alternative options for the council to consider.

"Sebastopol should ask itself why we allow these blowers in the first place," Wilson said in a recent interview. "What reasonable purpose do they serve? It's kind of like a bad habit that has gone on and on. We need to look at their use in a critical way."

Another Sebastopol resident has posted various informative videos and links on leaf blowers at www.tv1.com/vlogs/167/posts/246.

Various Marin County cities already ban blowers, as do dozens of California cities and many U.S. cities, both large and small. In l975, Carmel was the first to ban blowers.

"Leaf blowers erode top soil," Summers said in a recent telephone interview. "They de-hydrate the soil and blow away the protective covering of leaves, exposing plants to all kinds of pathogens, which is also bad for the roots. They are like a tornado blast that injures plants and opens the way for disease."

Summers also expressed concerns about "the long-term risk of exposure to noise and airborne contaminants by the workers who use them – who are often subordinate to large landscaping companies or even municipalities."

"Noise pollution has a serious impact on health," according to Sonoma resident Georgia Kelly of the Praxis Peace Institute. "Stress, hypertension, hearing loss and heart attacks can be associated with high noise levels. For people who work at home and older retired residents, neighborhood noise pollution is especially disturbing."

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