Municipal staff

Oak Bay phase out gasoline leaf blowers used by municipal staff

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

The board’s decision does not include landscaping companies or residential use, which are allowed to continue to use gasoline leaf blowers.

This decision is a partial victory for Coun. Tara Ney, who launched a campaign against gasoline leaf blowers in November 2019 with the aim of reducing air pollution and noise.

Another factor has since been added: the impact of the pandemic causing more people to stay indoors for longer periods of time.

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

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

Council approved a motion dealing only with municipal equipment.

Ney had called for a ban on all gasoline leaf blowers as a way to mitigate climate change. Along with several other local municipalities, Oak Bay has declared a climate emergency.

The noise from two-stroke gasoline equipment is irritating, said Ney, a leaf raking advocate.

Studies have shown that the combination of frequency and decibels emitted by certain types of gasoline engines causes stress in humans, Ney said.

Oak Bay is known for its abundant tree cover, which includes native Garry oaks, the target of much of the leaf blast. There are over 10,000 boulevard trees, according to the Oak Bay Urban Forest Strategy.

City staff have tested electrical equipment and consulted with other municipalities and suppliers, according to a staff report to council.

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

“If park staff were to use electric leaf blowers exclusively for the 2021 fall leaf program, it would add about $ 10,000 in labor costs with an equipment expense of $ 16,800,” says The report.

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

As for Ney, she doesn’t give up on her ultimate goal. She plans to bring forward another motion to phase out gasoline leaf blowers for everyone.

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