Chevy Chase moves to ban noisy gas-powered leaf blowers

Over the years in Maryland, people in the Town of Chevy Chase have complained about the noise of gas-powered leaf blowers, but not much was done — then COVID-19 happened.

Now, with Zoom meetings and distance learning being drowned-out by the gas-powered blowers’ whiny rattle, the town is being asked to incrementally ban the stronger, but noisier, dirtier alternative to electric and battery-powered blowers.

In its request, the town’s Landscaping Noise Reduction Task Force said the increased number of people who are in their homes during the week because of the coronavirus pandemic is raising awareness of the noise and air pollution associated with the gas-powered blowers.

“During this unusual period in which neighbors are home, and many are working or participating in distance learning or meetings, the noise of GPLB can be highly disruptive,” according to task force.

“Thus, more residents have become aware of the impact of GPLB that normally occurs when they are away at work, and this increased awareness has led to greater support for a ban.”

Citing figures from the World Health Organization, the task force said noise from gas-powered leaf blowers ranges from 102 decibels to 115 decibels. The Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health declared noise levels above 85 decibels to be harmful.

Gas blowers also emit significant amounts of ozone-forming chemicals, fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other air pollutants, the task force said.

Under the proposal, on Sept. 1, 2020, gas blowers would be banned on Sundays.

On Jan. 1, 2021, the blowers would be prohibited on weekends and federal holidays. Gas-powered leaf blowers would be completely banned on Jan. 1, 2022.

The task force acknowledges the ban of the stronger gas-powered blowers would be more expensive for landscapers, who would have to adapt equipment and time spent on jobs using less-powerful electric and battery blowers.

However, the task force says landscapers are aware that Jan. 1, 2022 coincides with the date of neighboring D.C.’s ban on gas-powered blowers, as well as the neighborhood of Chevy Chase Village.

As far as enforcement, under the proposal a first offense would result in the town sending an informational letter to the company and the property owner, possibly including a copy of “quiet companies” which meet noise standards.

A second offense would mean a $250 fine for the company, while a third offense would prompt a $500 fine for the company, “and a strong notification letter to property owner.”

As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Chevy Chase is 9,545.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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