February 1, 2015

Bonnie Sager
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Lucy Weinstein
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Ted Rueter
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Chapel Hill: Huntington, New York, a community of 200,000 on Long Island, has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for tolerating excessive noise, especially from gas-powered leaf blowers. Life in this suburban community has become unbearable because of the constant noise.

Section 141-4 of the town of Huntington code states that leaf blower noise shall not “exceed seventy (70) A-scale) decibels.” The town code also states that “the operation of any motorized leaf blower device on a weekday prior to 8:00 am or after 7:00 pm, or on a Saturday, Sunday or Sunday prior to 9:00 am or after 5:00 pm shall be deemed a noise disturbance. Said motorized leaf blower device shall only be operated for two hours of use per property on Saturdays and Sundays or legal holidays.”

Despite these stated restrictions, leaf blower use is at full blast in Huntington. Dr. Bonnie Sager, a Huntington resident, called the Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for enforcing the town code. She was told, “We do not have decibel meters, we will not be getting decibel meters, and we will not be training officers on how to use decibel meters.”

The ever-present noise from landscapers makes daily life in Huntington very difficult. Dr. Sager states, “They are here seven days a week, eleven hours a day. As soon as one landscaper with leaf blowers leaves, another crew shows up. The level of noise is unhealthy for everyone, especially the workers.”

Robert Kleinman, an area resident, states that “commercial landscapers are all over town, blasting away with noisy, smelly, pollution-belching machines all summer and fall–even into the winter. These landscapers should choose less offensive ways to accomplish their objectives, without disturbing the peace and jeopardizing the health of everyone around them.”

The incessant whine of gas-powered leaf blowers is ridiculous and unnecessary–especially in the summer months, when there are few (if any) leaves. What happened to the principle of the peaceful use and enjoyment of one’s own home and property?

Juanita Wetherell, another Huntington resident, states, “Why does a landscaping company have the right to drive me inside, make me shut my windows, put my health at risk, and damage the environment? Huntington needs to enforce its regulations on decibel levels and hours of operation for landscaping. The leaf blowers I hear all day long are definitely much louder than 70 decibels.”

Alice Huber of Huntington is a retiree. For years, she set an alarm to get up early and commute into the city. Now that she is retired, she would like to sleep in. However, she states, “almost every day at 8:00 am–and often earlier–the disagreeable sound of gas-powered leaf blowers awakens me. Landscaping services should not determine when I get up or take a nap.”

“Ear-splitting noise and toxic dust ruin the peace and quiet of our community,” states Dr. Lucy Weinstein, chair of the Long Island American Academy of Pediatrics Environmental Unit. “You can hear the leaf blower noise from blocks away. I worry about the children with asthma and allergies.”

Noise from a single gas-powered leaf blower reaches up to 115 decibels–in clear violation of the Huntington town code. Add the noise from lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, and string trimmers and the decibel level is outrageous. These levels far exceed the safety standards established by the World Health Organization and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These extreme noise levels are associated with hearing loss, high blood pressure, and ischemic heart disease.

In response to the epidemic of noise, local citizens have formed “Huntington CALM,” with a modest request. “In the summer,” states Dr. Sager, “there are virtually no leaves and only a few grass clippings on hard surfaces. For the sake of our health and the environment, isn’t it reasonable to leave a few grass clippings in place? Landscapers should use alternatives, such as manual tools, electric blowers, or blowers with lithium ion batteries. Lawn care should not come at the cost of our health and well-being.”

Huntington CALM is asking the town council to restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months. If nothing else, the hours of operation should be shortened, so that residents can eat dinner in peace and enjoy restful Sundays. The town council should encourage and educate landscapers and homeowners about more modern equipment, which is quieter, more energy-efficient, and less polluting. Requiring landscapers to register and have their equipment tested and approved–so that it conforms with proper decibel code levels–would also be a step in the right direction.

Noise Free America is a national citizens’ organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Brooklyn, New YorkBattery Park City, New York; and New York City motorcycle clubs.