At a recent village meeting, residents voiced concerns about noise and environmental pollution; a few months prior, they presented a petition asking the board to take a deeper look. They’re hoping to make Bellport the next village in a growing movement that would require commercial landscapers to scrap their gas-powered equipment in favor of less noisy and more environmentally friendly electric equipment.
It’s a move villages and towns across the United States are just beginning to take. East Hampton, in March of this year, adopted legislation surrounding gas and diesel-powered leaf blowers, citing research that “shows gas and diesel-powered leaf blowers have many adverse effects on the environment, human health, and the peace and quiet of communities.”
The East Hampton legislation bans all use of the gas-powered machinery, commercial and residential, for a four-month period, from May 20 to Sept. 20 of each year. Similar code changes have been enacted in other parts of New York State, and variations of the law have been or are being weighed in California, Vermont and Maryland.
“It is part of a larger mission, on the part of many residents, to have Bellport take initiatives and work towards a greener community, given the urgencies and realities of climate change that are upon us, not in the future, but here right now,” said Janet Kraynak, a village resident and vocal proponent of the push to make the village go electric.
The reason gas-powered hedge clippers and leaf blowers were targeted for a ban is simple: they cause the most environmental damage.
New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation said this: “Emissions from gas-powered leaf blowers are substantial. The amount of carbon monoxide emitted from a typical backpack leaf blower for just one hour is equal to carbon monoxide coming from the tailpipe of a current-year automobile operating for over eight hours.”
Lawn mowers are also culprits, but to less of a degree, with one hour of running time being equivalent to four hours in a car. And because they’re considered small-motor vehicles, lawn equipment doesn’t have the same regulatory process that cars do.
It’s the noise produced by the machines that’s most concerning for some village residents. A study by Citizens for a Quieter Sacramento found that of nearly 10,000 workers surveyed, more than 30 percent had noise-induced hearing damage and for nearly 15 percent of them, it was severe.
“There are serious health consequences and mental health impacts; it’s not just that it’s irritating,” said Kraynak.
Municipalities throughout Long Island and the United States have been making moves toward similar laws and code changes. In 2020, New York State Sen. John Liu introduced Senate bill S1113, which would prohibit the use of leaf blowers from May 1 to Sept. 30 of every year, statewide. Bans in Larchmont, N.Y., and the village of Southampton are similar.
But the Bellport proposal is different than the other bans for two reasons: they want to do it slower and they don’t want to ban residents from using gas-powered equipment on their own homes.
“Other communities banned it for residential, but we’re asking for something more measured, only for commercial companies that operate machines eight to 10 hours a day, six days a week, which no homeowner does,” said Kraynak.
Bellport Village mayor Ray Fell said he supports the move, but that he and the board are still trying to figure out how it’s going to happen.
“We have to go through our due diligence, talk to contractors, talk to landscapers, and that’s the process we’re doing,” he said. “We’re meeting with contractors and seeing what works for them. We need it to be good for our residents and for people who provide services for the community.”
The village’s first move was to limit the hours landscapers and contractors can operate; now it’s 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., while before it was from 7 a.m. to an unspecified time.
However, some community members feel the village’s commitment should be bolded, or should at least come with a timeline.
“I don’t think it’s solving the issue because the environmental pollution from these machines is really contributing to the climate disaster we are living in. So, limiting the hours isn’t going to solve the issue. Committing to transition will,” said Kraynak. “We are a community committed to the outdoors. In Bellport we live outside—our bay is so important to us, our beach is so important to us. I think it will greatly improve quality of life in the village if we can successfully transition.”