Committee of the Islands

Keeping Sanibel Special Since 1975

Leaf Blower Issue

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June 10, 2019

Leaf Blowers on Sanibel – Latest Update

by Barbara Joy Cooley, environment committee chairperson, Committee of the Islands

Just a day or two before the June 4 City Council meeting, Sanibel city council members received two voluminous reports prepared by city staff about how many communities elsewhere have regulated or restricted leaf blowers.

This was too much information to digest before the meeting, and so the city council has postponed the discussion until July.  However, city council members made some comments on June 4 that may indicate how they feel about regulating or restricting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. 

Rather than try to summarize each council members comments, suffice it to say all had given the matter some thought but not all were convinced that a ban on gasoline powered would be the right approach. Some seemed to view this as a solely a noise problem rather than an environmental problem. One member asked why just leaf blowers and not other gasoline powered landscaping implements. Some doubts were expressed about the adequacy of battery powered leaf blowers for professional landscapers. Clearly more study and more discussion are needed.

When I spoke, as the environment committee chairperson for Committee of the Islands (COTI), I reminded the council of two points I made when I spoke to them on this subject in March, because the issue is about air pollution as well as noise pollution:

  1.  Operating the best-selling commercial fuel-powered leaf blower for an hour emits air pollutants comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles.  Small gas engines such as those used in many leaf blowers, emit ozone-damaging pollutants that are projected to exceed those same emissions from vehicles by the early 2020s.  (Source:  California Air Resources Board.)
  2. The City of Sanibel’s current code allows leaf blowers and other lawn equipment to be operated 7 days a week, from 8AM to 9PM.  The code does not limit noise from leaf blowers; it merely requires that leaf blowers have mufflers – a restriction that is rarely if ever enforced.  The Sanibel code does not address problems of air pollution from gas-powered leaf blower use.

I also suggested that they focus particularly on the reports’ information about the leaf blower ordinance in the Village of Key Biscayne, because it has been successful.

Finally, Mayor Kevin Ruane said that he was reminded of the irony that there are more noise restrictions on generators – which are very much needed after hurricanes – than on lawn equipment operated on Sanibel.

The leaf blower issue will likely come before the city council again in July.  Meanwhile, if you have some thoughts you’d like to share on the subject, the city council’s email address is sancouncil@mysanibel.com , and ours is coti@coti.org .

We will keep you posted.