Oak Bay phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers used by municipal staff

Oak Bay municipal staff are starting immediately to phase out noisy gas-powered gardening equipment, including leaf blowers, by 2025.

Council’s decision does not include landscaping companies or residential use, which are permitted to continue using gas-powered leaf blowers.

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The move is a partial victory for Coun. Tara Ney, who launched a campaign against gas-powered leaf blowers in November 2019 in an effort to decrease air pollution and noise.

Another factor has been added since — the impact of the pandemic leading more people to stay indoors for greater periods of time.

“We are more sensitive to the livability of our homes right now,” she said Tuesday.

With today’s concerns over climate change, “if there was ever a time to accelerate the transition, you would think it would be now.”

Council has approved a motion covering only municipal equipment.

Ney had sought a ban on all gas-powered leaf blowers as a way to mitigate climate change. Along with several other local municipalities, Oak Bay has declared a climate emergency.

Noise from two-stroke gas-powered equipment is irritating, said Ney, an advocate of raking leaves.

Studies have shown that the combination of frequency and decibels emitted from some types of gas-powered engines causes stress to humans, Ney said.

Oak Bay is known for its abundant tree cover, which include native Garry oaks — the target of much of the leaf blowing. There are more than 10,000 boulevard trees, the Oak Bay Urban Forest Strategy says.

Municipal staff have tried out electrical equipment and consulted with other municipalities and suppliers, said a staff report to council.

Electric-powered equipment would be adequate in some cases but in others, it would not be powerful enough or have enough battery life to match the performance of gas-powered equipment.

“If parks staff were to use electric leaf blowers exclusively for the 2021 fall leaf program it would add approximately $10,000 in labour costs with a $16,800 equipment expenditure,” the report said.

However, the parks department expects “that the rapid advancements of battery technology anticipated over the next five years will allow electric landscaping equipment to be as powerful or equal to gas-powered equipment. The only question will be battery degradation and replacement.”

As for Ney, she is not giving up on her ultimate goal. She plans to present another motion to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers for everyone.


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