With leaf blowers, a mess of noise in St. Petersburg - FOX 13 News

With leaf blowers, a mess of noise in St. Petersburg

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St. Petersburg city council chair Karl Nurse wants a conversation about leaf blowers. Noise is just one, and perhaps the easiest, issue.

"Could we limit the hours, perhaps limit the time of year?" Nurse said. "Currently, they can start them up at 7 o'clock in the morning. There would be no reason you couldn't dial it back at both the start hours and the evening hours."

Use might also be limited to seasons that experience more leaves. Those approaches and even more severe action have been taken elsewhere.

"Maybe we don't go as far as some of the California cities, which frankly have outlawed them," Nurse pointed out.

The city council chair admits a second issue may be impossible to address: Some yard crews blow debris into the street and leave it.

"What goes in the gutter eventually winds up in the Bay," Nurse lamented. "But the other problem that happens with that is it ends up clogging our [sewers], and then our streets flood."

The noise complaint is not new to the lawn care industry. Some contractors have tried four-cycle leaf blowers, which are a little quieter and a lot heavier.

"When you're working eight,10 hours a day carrying this stuff around, you want to use lighter stuff," said Bill Benton, owner of Quality Grounds Maintenance.

Southern Exteriors' Jim Cunneen said "It's not that loud, and it's only there for a couple of minutes. If anything, it's worse on the people running it than it is on the people affected in the distance."

Sound is measured in decibels, and a machine that emits 60 decibels is half as loud as one that measures 70 decibels. Most of the commercial duty leaf blowers on hand at Northeast Mowers claimed 74 - 76 decibel sound levels. Some newer models from the same manufacturer offer 65 decibel output and can be labeled "LN" for "low noise".

"This has been going on for years," owner Steve Fuller said. "California has some pretty stringent laws, low decibels and the times you can operate equipment."

He explained the connection between volume of sound and volume of air flow.

"Time is money in this business and people need to maximize their time," Fuller said, which is why commercial blowers are larger, and therefore louder. "You have to move as much material as fast as possible."

Nurse has placed a new business item on the St. Petersburg City Council's July 25th agenda. He requests the issue be sent to a council committee for consideration.

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