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Leaf Blower Ban Narrowly Defeated

A proposal to ban leaf blowers in Marblehead was defeated at Town Meeting Tuesday night.

A proposal calling for a seasonal ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Marblehead was defeated by less than 100 votes at Town Meeting Tuesday night.

The majority of those gathered at voted in favor of indefinitely postponing the seasonal ban, which would have run from Sept. 15 to May 15, by a margin of 285 to 211.

Prior to opening the floor to comments from the public, the article's sponsor and longtime resident Christopher Bergonzi used his time at the podium to challenge opponents to dispute the health risks associated with gas-powered leaf blowers.

"I and many others believe that the use of leaf blowers in Marblehead has become increasingly excessive and incessant and poses serious health risks to the community," Bergonzi said. "This is not just a quality of life issue or a nuisance issue - this is a public health issue."

Bergonzi went on to argue that leaf blowers pose a health risk to local residents because they are very noisy; the exhaust they produce is bad for the environment; and they blow particles into the air that can be potentially dangerous.

The handful of town residents who spoke in favor of the blower ban echoed Bergonzi's concerns about potential health risks and some recalled times when pleasant days were ruined by the noise of landscaping crews using leaf blowers.

Among those speaking out against the ban was Rob Carr, owner of Superior Landscaping, who said the ban would translate to longer hours for landscapers and higher prices for local homeowners.

"Mr. Bergonzi has stated that using the blower doesn't save time or money, he suggests the job can be done without it, and I can tell you from my lifetime of experience that is simply not true," Carr said, adding, "if this ban is passed, costs will go up and everyone will be affected."

Other town residents opposed to the ban argued that the decibel level produced by leaf blowers is no louder than other commonly-used power tools; that there was a lack of solid data proving that leaf blowers posed a real health risk; and that it would become another bylaw that local police would have to worry about enforcing.

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know by sharing your opinion in our comments section below.

Peter Lake, LAKE Real Estate May 09, 2012 at 01:38 PM
In some communities that have banned gas-powered blowers, landscape gardeners have taken to putting a generator on a truck and then running electric blowers from it.
louise May 09, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I hope the tight vote is a message to our local landscapers that there is a real concern regarding the noise & debris these machines stir up. My hope is that this debate has inspired landscapers and homeowners alike to be more conscientious about how and when they use these tools.
Ron Robinson May 09, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I understand that residents try to ban Leaf Blowing due to the noise. Leaf-blowers often wear noise protection on their ears. So they don't want to go deaf but even a short distance away, we're to tolerate this noise? I like peace and quiet so I'm for banning them - entirely!!! And I will explain why. What people don't seem to realize is that all that blowing stirs up things besides just the dislike of noise. Pollen, allergens and other airborne particles are now thrown up into the air while we breathe it all in. Landscapers will blow stairs and walkways clean (instead of using a broom). I watch these little hurricane and think 'Isn't it great that we breathe in particles of dog feces, cat dander, feathers, and who knows what else.' There's been such an increase in diseases such as Asthma, Cancers and other breathing disorders. Each year the Meteorologists tell us that the pollen count is at an all-time high and so are the "bad air" days. Besides our lungs, it can't be good for our eyes either. I encourage people to read the article below from The New Yorker about this health hazard. It's about a residential community (wealthy development) in California, like some neighborhoods here, the consequences caused by the blowers, and some of the residents' fight to limit their use. Noise pollution? It's much more dangerous than just that. As a long-term Swampscott resident I suspect some people share my concerns. http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2010-10-25#folio=054
Melissa Zimelman Comins May 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM
please learn how to use an apostrophe, Mouth. And yes, that is the idea...CHARGE more.
Janet May 09, 2012 at 03:07 PM
@Ron. Did you even read that article? It proves nothing! Do you honestly believe that the air quality will vastly improve by simply banning landscapers from using blowers? No more Asthma or cancer if we don't run small gas engines OUTDOORS? Then why is smoking allowed outside? And what would we have to ban next? All motorized equipment of any kind? If you believe everything in this article, next people will be saying that the reason more of our children aren't doing better in school is because their neighbor uses a leaf blowers once a week. If you are really that concerned about it than go after the manufacturers.
Janet May 09, 2012 at 03:27 PM
@Mouth of The Harbor. Way to perpetuate bogus stereotypes. Not everyone in Marblehead is rich enough to "afford" higher costs for lawn care. So I guess if your elderly or disabled and can't take care of your own lawn care or just plain average as far as income goes then just let it pile up. Dog feces and all. I'm sure no one will complain about that. And I suppose landscapers are somehow beneath you because their profession involves dirt and noise? Sadly there are many out there that are inconsiderate about how and when they use the equipment but most are more professional than that and don't deserve your snotty comments.
Mark Ferrante May 09, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I am so happy that the residents of Marblehead defeated the banning of leaf blowers. Good for everyone for seeing through the maze of hysterical opinion (not fact) put forth by Mr. Bergonzi and his supporters. I personally have seen no data comparing the effects of a windy day in Marblehead compared to what a leaf blower does. I would think the amounts of "floating dog poop" it creates would be similar. Maybe Mr. Bergonzi should try to ban the wind in Marblehead at next years Town Meeting. Better yet, how about cars, computers and electric can openers? And if we're going to do away with all our conveniences why don't we just change our name to Lancaster and live like the Amish? Furthermore, trying to use the City of Cambridge as an example of who banned leaf blowers is assinine. The People's Republic of Cambridge would ban electricity and indoor plumming if they could. Here's an idea for the supporters of the ban - if you don't want leaf blowers used on your property tell your landscaper to not use them! Pay the extra money and save us all from ourselves that way. Don't make your hysteria everyone elses problem. Hooray for Marblehead!
Dennis Aikman May 09, 2012 at 05:19 PM
no more leaf blowers, spray painting, aerosol cans, power washing, street sweeping, dogs barking, horns, house sanding, solvent based paints!!! What else???
Dennis Aikman May 09, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Marbleheaders can afford it.. haha- we have to pay for our heated sidewalks, daily trash pick up, town driveway snow removal, town house cleaning service, town grocery delivery, we cant afford a rise in our landscaping costs - come on!
Dennis Aikman May 09, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Great Janet! Get Mouth of the Harbor outta here!
Bob Yoffe May 09, 2012 at 06:10 PM
You forgot snowblowers, are they next?
Richard Gindes May 09, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Well said Mark! The hysteria of the Nanny State is getting very old, very fast!
Dennis Aikman May 09, 2012 at 06:28 PM
forgot- thank you Bob
Joe Whipple May 09, 2012 at 07:32 PM
What I've never understood is why anybody would waste the effort or money to remove all the leaves (and grass clippings) anyway. As someone pointed out, they are natural fertilizers. It is my experience that a rotary lawnmower will chop the leaves fine enough that they won't smother the grass. People worry about the additional costs if leaf blowers are banned. Why do they waste money on removal to begin with? But if people still insist on removing all that good natural fertilizer from their property, maybe they should follow the Cemetery Department's example (see Article 15 of the Town Warrant) and use a leaf vacuum instead. As long as it makes enough noise to satisfy the user or homeowner it should do the job very well.
michael beaulieu May 09, 2012 at 09:56 PM
CAN'T BLAME SALEM POWER PLANT ANY MORE?
T. Devereux May 09, 2012 at 10:22 PM
if we ban leaf blowers why don't we go ahead and ban outboard engines, chain saws, 4th of july, nail guns, street cleaners, the bus and people talking in the street. as for the dog waste being blown in the air maybe people should start picking up after their dogs considering its the law.
ttlm May 10, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I totally agree with you! Come on people. Dont we have better things to worry about than leaf blowers?? I cannot afford to pay a landscaper to do my yard. Next it will be nail guns and lawn mowers!
G. Montgomery May 12, 2012 at 05:12 PM
(from previous) My 2 1/2 year old son is pre-asthmatic which means he has the potential to develop a chronic inflammatory disorder of the respiratory airways, which is characterized by coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing. It is a serious and sometimes life threatening disorder, but if managed properly, it can be controlled. "Managed" and "Potential" being key words here. If he is exposed to the presence of certain environmental conditions (triggers) such as tobacco smoke, household pets, and dust mites and toxic chemicals* (see next post) he can develop the condition. Okay...keep him away from smoke...check. Pets...check. Dust mites...check. Toxic chemicals........well maybe? I don't need studies to show me that these blowers are not good for us. I can't tell you how scary it is for my son and us to watch as he struggles to breath after the leaf blowers infiltrate our air. Isn't it time we stop the pettiness and worry about our health and the health of our children? How are these other communities surviving without the use of these things? We need to rally around our family & neighbors health and well being instead of worrying about how pretty we want our lawns or who lives where. Isn't that the most important thing anyway? If something isn't good for us let's find another way. That is how things work successfully.
G. Montgomery May 12, 2012 at 05:12 PM
*-Air Pollution—A single leaf blower operating for an hour emits as much pollution as 40 cars idling during the same amount of time. (http://www.greenwichcalm.org/apps/blog/show/6583443-health-hazards-of-leaf-blowers) -Leaf blowers stir up over two pounds per hour per leaf blower of dangerous particulate matter including but not limited to cat, dog, and rodent feces, pesticides, and street dust which may include mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel. (The American Lung Association) -Leaf blowers spew a number of toxic chemicals including but not limited to carbon monoxide, benzene (a known carcinogen), 1,3 -butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde (possible carcinogens). (California Air Resources Board, “A Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers,” http//www.epa.gov/oms/regs/nonroad/equip-Id/hhsfrm/f00007.htm)
G. Montgomery May 12, 2012 at 05:15 PM
If prevention is, in fact, the best medicine, then we need to pay much closer attention to the role chemicals in the environment play in the rise of disease, related health care costs, and human suffering. In New York Times article by, Nicholas Kristof highlights the issue in his column "Do Toxins Cause Autism?" Kristof's piece refers to an article by Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and chair of the school's department of preventive medicine. Kristof writes: The article cites "historically important, proof-of-concept studies that specifically link autism to environmental exposures experienced prenatally." It adds that the "likelihood is high" that many chemicals "have potential to cause injury to the developing brain and to produce neurodevelopmental disorders." While his article is full of cautionary language, Dr. Landrigan told me that he is increasingly confident that autism and other ailments are, in part, the result of the impact of environmental chemicals on the brain as it is being formed. "The crux of this is brain development" he said. "If babies are exposed in the womb or shortly after birth to chemicals that interfere with brain development, the consequences last a lifetime." Read more: http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/chemicals_and_our_endangered_children/#ixzz1sh5HUn2g Read more: http://healthychild.org/blog/commentschemicals_and_our_endangered_children/#ixzz1sh4zJoeA
G. Montgomery May 12, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Even is autism is not an issue, environmental toxins can effect a child’s attention span and ability to focus which does not allow them to learn and prosper to the best of their ability. Also, what about the elderly and people with other medical conditions? We can't ban everything that people don't like and I certainly don't like the thought of someone telling me how I should live but shouldn't we ban something that we know is hurting people? If we are against banning just for banning's sake we might still have DDT.
Harry Barker May 12, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Marty Riskin summarized the leaf blower issue better than any of us. Check the Reporter Opinion page for his summary.
Dennis Aikman May 14, 2012 at 04:52 PM
LEAF BLOWER BAN FAILS DUE TO LACK OF VALID DATA Mr. Bergonzi and others, have claimed that there is documented information supporting the argument that blowers pose a serious and real public health issue. My question is directly, where is this proven documentation? Government, scientific, and environmental communities, along with, The American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, have no valid published data (with the exception of gas powered emissions) supporting Mr. Bergonzi’s claims. IF leaf-blowers cause public health issues, that's a very good argument for banning them. Almost everyone agrees on that point! But where is the verified data? There is no valid published scientific data. There are no studies by reputable scientific sources that support their claim. One would think that if the information is out there, it would be readily available and accessible, not just to these concerned citizens, but at the very least, to every public health agency, including our own Board of Health. The fact that a number of intelligent, outspoken, and interested people have argued the issue at some length (at Town Meeting and elsewhere) without pointing to a single source for authenticated scientific information, raises the question: are the health claims valid?
Mark Ferrante June 04, 2012 at 04:29 PM
That's certainly a lot of words, G. Montgomery, and thank you for them. I will ALWAYS fight against groups of people trying to make me alter my life based on what they think is good for me. Have an issue with how things are in Marblehead? Then move...
louise June 04, 2012 at 05:00 PM
"If you don't like it then MOVE" or any variation of that ego maniacal sentiment is one of the dumbest statements regularly made on this and other local sites. That is not how things work in the country. Learn about the issue, form an opinion, and share it (or not), but get used to the fact that we are ALL entitled to our opinion on a given topic. If you're going to disagree with someone try taking the time to formulate an intelligent response rather than a thoughtless & ignorant directive to "move on out".
nick June 04, 2012 at 09:54 PM
nick what a shame that people cant get along. i have lived here all my life,born at the mary alely hospital ,do you know where that is?this town has changed a lot over the years,dont know if thats a good thing or not.i miss the old days and im not very old.this town has gotten very strange , would you want to make things different then they were? now ill be a jerk, if you dont like it here the way it is, dont push your views on other people,i wish you all could have been in the 60s,you probaly would have left,,thats when we were a town that got along.go drive your big suv's talk on your phones and complain about something else! you all make me sick! marblehead forever! (go back to were you came from,they probly dont like ther either) good night and good health to you all.be good or be yourself.
Gatsby May 08, 2013 at 03:04 AM
Nick you silly old coot. Just like other things, everybody has their opinion. The ban/restriction LOST ... AGAIN. And will forever hence. Stay in town if you like. Forever losers.
Gatsby May 08, 2013 at 03:06 AM
This wil NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pass. Never.
Gatsby May 08, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Move..
louise May 08, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Oh, silly Gatsby. Did you not realize this thread is a year old? Welcome to 2013.

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