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Greenwich Health Board: No Leaf Blower Ban

GREENWICH, Conn. – Greenwich may not get a summertime leaf blower ban after all, at least not through a noise ordinance amendment from the Board of Health.

It released a message this week on the town’s website , reissuing its resolution that there is not enough scientific and medical data that the use of gas-powered leaf blowers are linked to health risks. The board reiterated once again the decision to ban leaf blowers during summer “is a quality-of-life issue and not a health issue.”

The health board stated that it extensively reviewed literature submitted by the Greenwich group Citizens Against Leafblower Mania, or CALM, as well as letters written for the board’s consideration. It said the data does not indicate gas-powered leaf blower usage has a direct cause and effect relationship to “explain why human health risks are only a concern during some months and not the rest of the year.”

At the Board of Selectmen’s March 1 meeting, Selectman Drew Marzullo introduced proposals that were created through a committee that met throughout February to examine the issue. It came up with changes that emphasize enforcement and education. Marzullo proposed banning gas-powered leaf blowers Sundays and fining residents on a sliding scale for violations. A first offense would warrant a warning and education; a second offense would result in a $100 fine; and three or more offenses would be a fine of $249.

Currently, the number of leaf blowers used on a property differs by the size of a lot. Marzullo said this is impractical, and police officers should have a standard rule to enforce. He suggests making the ordinance differ according to where the leaf blowers are being operated – in the backcountry or downtown.

At the meeting First Selectman Peter Tesei said the health board should not “be allowed to duck their responsibility” on the issue. When the Board of Health passes an ordinance it becomes law in three days, and no other approvals by town bodies are necessary.

The Board of Health rejected a proposal last year for a six-month ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. CALM originally introduced the measure, which the selectmen took up earlier this year. After the Board of Health nixed the proposal once again, it will be up to the Board of Selectmen to decide whether to create its own ordinance proposal before March 15 in order to be on the Representative Town Meeting’s April agenda.

Gretchen Biggs, founder of CALM, said at the March 1 meeting she was doubtful the health board would amend the ordinance and argued that leaf blower usage is not just a noise issue. “During the summer months, we have very poor air quality already, and we really need to think of the health issues,” she said. “It’s the emission from these machines that we are protecting ourselves as much as the noise.”

In its statement, the Board of Health said that when leaf blowers were banned in towns in other states, including nearby Rye, N.Y., it was done so “on the premise of a quality-of-life issue … not local health boards.”

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