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Landscaping crews no fans of Burlington leaf blower ban

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 3:04 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s new leaf blower ordinance is intended to cut down on noise pollution and help the city achieve its net-zero energy goals. But landscaping crews, the first users to feel the bite of the new rules, say their experience this summer has not been positive.

“It’s not terrible but just makes just one more hoop you have to jump through when we’re doing work in the summer,” said Connor Poulin with Poulin Landscaping.

He says his company is working to comply with Burlington’s leaf blower ordinance. It’s being phased in, so right now it applies only to city and landscaping crews with 10 properties or more.

By next summer the entire city will need to comply. That means from Memorial Day to Labor Day, only electric or battery-powered leaf blowers may be used. They can not exceed 65 decibels and only one can be used at a time on a lot that’s 5,000 square feet or smaller. After Labor Day, electric, battery, and gasoline blowers are allowed, but the gas ones must have proper documentation and can not exceed 65 decibels. A violation carries a $100 fine.

Poulin says the battery-powered blowers are expensive and less efficient. “That electric one -- it only lasts 18 minutes if you have it on the full power, then you have to charge it, which takes about 30 minutes. Especially when you’re mowing all day long, so you figure 15 minutes per property if you use a leaf blower, so you’ll run into some problems there,” he said.

Burlington parks maintenance superintendent Deryk Roach says his crews made the switch this summer. Five crews use only electric blowers. He says the city paid for extra batteries and the infrastructure for charging, something that might be out of the price range of some landscaper. “It will take technology improving and those battery lives getting longer for these wholesale operations to be able to kind of cost-effectively apply this type of machinery in their operation,” he said.

Roach admits electric blowers do not have the same amount of power as gas ones, something especially noticeable during the fall when there are so many leaves on the ground, but he says his crews will comply with the ordinance.

Electric does allow for easier maintenance, which is why Roach is encouraging it for residents especially. “The combustion engine creates a lot of byproducts that are harmful to those engines that are running on, so the electric motors are much cleaner and fairly simple motors,” he said.

For larger landscaping companies, however, Poulin says the switch will likely have to happen over time, because of the immense cost of buying all the new equipment at once. “Every landscaping company you’ll talk to will say they have so much work, they have too much work, and what I think maybe you’ll see this fall or next summer people instead of buying all the electric stuff they’ll just say we don’t do jobs in Burlington anymore,” he said.

Related Story:

Some landscapers say new Burlington leaf blower ordinance could hurt business

Burlington to limit use of gas-powered leaf blowers

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