April 1, 2017

Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet

Bonnie Sager
[email protected]

Ted Rueter
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Chapel Hill: The town council of Maplewood, New Jersey has won a “Quiet Hero” award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for unanimously passing an ordinancebanning landscapers from using gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months. Town lawmakers stated that the new rule is intended to decrease noise and environmental pollution in the Maplewood area.

Maplewood is following in the footsteps of many municipalities which have banned or restricted gas-powered leaf blowers. Sonoma, California recently banned gas-powered leaf blowers year-round; Newton, Massachusetts recently enacted passed a summer ban.

The new law in Maplewood prohibits the commercial use of gas-powered leaf blowers from May 15 to September 30 each year. The law does not apply to individual residents or homeowners’ associations.

Victor DeLuca, Maplewood’s mayor, told NJ.com that “it’s the intensity of the use. There’s no recourse for someone who is affected by it. We are just trying to keep calm in town. To keep it quiet. We’re talking about the summertime.”

Gail Woolcott of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association told NJ.com that most landscapers are “respectful” and use blowers “at appropriate times.” She also asserted that leaf blowers “are not used for leaves very often in the summer.” Rather, she said, they are used “to clear fertilizer from driveways and walking paths.” These assertions are not particularly accurate. Exposing children and pets to rodent feces, pesticides, mold, and allergens being blown into the air at speeds in excess of 200 mph is definitely not being “respectful.”

Mayor DeLuca defended the different rules for landscapers and individual homeowners: “My feeling is that when an individual is using a leaf blower on his or her property, it is a one-person operation.
If that person abuses that practice, they face neighbor pressure. You know the people on your block.” On the other hand, Mayor DeLuca argues that landscapers “will often use three blowers at a time, and are not as sensitive to the impacts on their non-customers.”

Bonnie Sager, co-founder of Huntington CALM (a citizens’ advisory group which advocates for sustainable, zero-emission, quiet landscaping practices) applauds Maplewood, New Jersey’s town council for unanimously voting for summertime bans of gas leaf blowers. She stated that “the Maplewood town council is protecting their citizens and landscape workers, which is the role government is supposed to play.”

Sager noted that “the health, environmental, and quality of life issues posed by the use of the highly polluting, toxic, two-stroke engine gas leaf blowers is widely known.  Their noise levels cause tinnitus, hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.
With the advent of commercial-grade battery blowers, there is absolutely no reason why gas-powered leaf blowers should be allowed in any municipality.  This is an avoidable public health and environmental problem.”

Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet, stated that “Maplewood’s action is a step in the right direction.  Commercial landscapers are the biggest offenders and often use several blowers on a property.  Although homeowners’ use of gas-powered leaf blowers can be offensive, they are not the ones turning our neighborhoods and public spaces into industrial zones.”

“Hopefully,” Rueter continued, “when Maplewood homeowners begin to understand why gas-powered leaf blowers are banned during summer months for commercial landscapers, they will see the significant benefits and stop using gas-powered leaf blowers themselves. If they do, Maplewood, New Jersey will be a much healthier and quieter place to live.”

Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization opposed to excessive noise. Past winners of the Quiet Heroes award include International Noise Awareness Day and the Italian Supreme Court (for upholding a ban on boom cars).