first_imgTree canopies are a hallmark of the suburban tranquility in Montreal’s western environs, but some residents say the ear-splitting roar of a gardening tool used to maintain their foliage is causing a rift in the community.A municipal push in Beaconsfield, Que., to silence leaf blowers for the summer has embroiled the city of roughly 20,000 in a dispute that pits neighbour against neighbour.Mayor Georges Bourelle said he expects council will vote Monday to adopt a seasonal ban on leaf blowers. If enacted, the ban would run June 1 through Sept. 30 starting next year.It’s a decision that Bourelle considers a “compromise” as the city joins a number of other Canadian municipalities who’ve debated leaf-blower regulations.Vancouver, Toronto and several Montreal suburbs faced their own battles over whether to muffle the leaf blowers.Bourelle said councillors in Beaconsfield began considering a ban after it became clear some felt the leaf blower’s high-pitched drone was a nuisance, but their focus has since shifted to public health concerns tied to the machinery.The same forceful air speeds that allow leaf blowers to blast away grass clippings also lead to the dispersion of dust and other fine particles, said Bourelle. He believes that contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory disease.He also cited concerns about noise-induced hearing loss and high levels of air pollutants from the gas-powered engines.“People are not well informed on the very serious health hazards … or they simply choose to ignore it because of convenience,” said Bourelle.“To me, this is a very, very selfish approach. Because my goodness, you have to care for the environment, you have to care for your neighbours, you have to care for the health of people in general.”University of Victoria professor Eleanor Setton said the health effects of prolonged exposure to noise, fuel emissions and airborne particles have been well documented, but more research is needed to assess the actual level of risk posed by leaf blowers.Setton, who also serves as managing director of the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium, said some local governments may decide there is enough evidence to take a precautionary approach.Already two nearby suburbs of Montreal have implemented restrictions on leaf-blowers in recent years, said Mayor Bourelle.But not every community reached conclusions that led to a ban.In March, a report prepared by Toronto’s municipal licensing and standards department found there was insufficient evidence to support a complete leaf-blower ban on the grounds of health or safety concerns.The report also noted that landscapers, retailers and other commercial stakeholders “unanimously” opposed banning or setting noise limits on leaf blowers.Vancouver City Council faced similar pressures from a provincial landscaping association when members voted to ease regulations that would have banned gas-powered leaf blowers outright by 2004. Today, leaf blowers can be operated in most parts of the city, except the west end, and regulations limit the hours of use, proximity to residences and decibel levels.Adam Robertson, who runs an eavestrough cleaning company in Beaconsfield, said councillors have not been swayed by the protests of contractors who insist ditching leaf blowers during summer will hurt business owners and customers.Banning leaf blowers during part of his peak season could triple how long it takes to clear out the gutters of a single house, said Robertson, forcing him to pass the increased costs onto his clients.The manual labour would also take a physical toll on workers, he said, and even if he hired more staff, efficiency would suffer compared the blast of a leaf blower.He counts himself among a legion of residents he said are outraged by how local officials have handled the issue.“They’ve been bylawed to death in Beaconsfield and now they’re sick of it,” he said.Robertson is especially concerned by local council’s reluctance to release the findings of a city-commissioned poll gauging public sentiment on the leaf-blower debate.Bourelle said the poll will be made public after Monday’s vote in keeping with municipal protocol, noting that “a survey is not a referendum” and calling its findings “inconclusive.”Licensed pharmacist Janice Carr, who has been researching the health implications of leaf blowers for more than a decade, said she hopes business owners eventually recognize the potential opportunities around marketing low-noise landscaping.Carr said the community needs to work together to learn more about the health implications of leaf-blower use, rather than dismissing council’s efforts as overzealous regulation.“The adversarial route doesn’t work,” she said.last_img

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