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City bill would ban gas leaf blowers

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The grating roar of gasoline-powered leaf blowers often triggers migraines for Diamond Head resident Linda Wong.

Twice a week, Wong shuts all her windows and doors in an attempt to block out the noise and dust that she says enter her Pualei Circle condominium when yard workers make their rounds in her neighborhood.

"We get a lot of dust," Wong said. "They have fumes. They blow feces, pollens and pollutants in the air. People that have hay fever and asthma are really affected."

Wong and others who consider leaf blowers a noisy nuisance could get relief through a bill being introduced at the City Council on Wednesday. Bill 38 would ban all gasoline-powered leaf blowers on Oahu.

The bill follows last week’s enactment of a state law that restricts the hours when people may use leaf blowers, and authorizes fines for violators.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi will introduce Bill 38 on behalf of residents who have been pushing for a ban.

"The noise kind of echoes between buildings. Many people are bothered by it," said Kobayashi, who said she has received complaints from residents in Diamond Head and densely populated Makiki.

Opponents of the bill say a ban will drive up landscape maintenance costs for condominium owners.

The bill also calls for restricting the use of electric leaf blowers near windows, doors and air ducts, and limiting how long the equipment can be operated, depending on the size of the property. The bill also would place a limit on how noisy a leaf blower can be.


Act 206, enacted July 7

» Prohibits the use of leaf blowers in residential areas except between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (9-6 on Sundays and holidays).
» Fines of $50 for first violation, up to $500 for repeat violators.
» People may not blow dust or debris into the air or onto property outside the area being cleaned.
» Government agencies and contractors working on behalf of the government are exempt from this law.

Source: Hawaii Legislature



Bill 38, to be introduced Wednesday

» Bans all gasoline-powered leaf blowers.
» Electric-powered leaf blowers may be operated in residential areas between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., but not on Sundays and holidays.
» Noise level shall not exceed 70 decibels beyond boundaries of the property being cleaned.
» Similar provisions as state law regarding fines and control of debris.

Source: Honolulu City Council

The state law regulating leaf blower hours, Act 206, became law Wednesday without the governor’s signature. Wong, who lobbied for the bill at the state Capitol, is now at Honolulu Hale seeking a strong county law.

Several stringent provisions in Bill 38 originally were in a state bill, but were taken out of the bill that the Legislature eventually passed, Wong said.

She said she has measured the sound level coming from the gas leaf blowers used in her neighborhood at 95 decibels. In comparison, a semi-trailer truck at about 65 feet has been measured at 90 decibels, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"They’re really just too loud," Wong said.

More than a dozen cities in California have banned gas leaf blowers, including Sacramento, Malibu, Palo Alto and Santa Monica.

Alternatives exist. Cordless electric leaf blowers that use rechargeable batteries, as well as corded models, are available at home improvement stores.

But James Ward, assistant manager of Aloha Power Equipment located on Sand Island Access Road, which sells only sell gasoline-powered leaf blowers, said: "(Cordless electric leaf blowers) don’t have enough power to blow leaves and rubbish. They last only 10 to 15 minutes.

"You won’t see a professional landscaper or yardsman use an ‘electric’ anything."

Boyd Ready, president of the Landscape Industry Council of Hawaii, said residents would be hit with increased maintenance costs if landscapers are forced to use electric leaf blowers.

And they make almost as much noise as gas leaf blowers because "they would need a generator operating to run the blower," he said. "Now you’re running two machines to run the electrical blower. It’s not a practical thing to ban gas leaf blowers."

Ready said landscapers who are members of the Landscape Industry Council already restrict hours of operation and days they use leaf blowers on the grounds of residential condominiums they maintain.

"It’s a common-sense solution and it works," he said.


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