East Harriet resident Stephen Rueff is on a crusade to ban leaf blowers in Minneapolis - or find an environmentally friendlier alternative. His lobbying efforts are paying off; City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) will propose a city ban by late January.
Rueff has been lobbying Niziolek and Minneapolis residents - via citywide meetings, e-mails and a sign campaign - for about a year. He said leaf-blower noise first spurred him to action because some are louder than state law allows. However, he said after researching blowers, he's added environmental concerns to the list.
Rueff said some of the machines leak gas and emit unhealthy fumes into the air. He also said leaf blowers rustle up allergens that can be harmful to those with respiratory problems. "Minneapolis has more and more air-quality problems," Rueff said.
He acknowledges that wind can also whip up the allergens, but Rueff argues leaf blowing is a deliberate choice that can be avoided.
Niziolek said he has collected neighborhood comments for review; he likens leaf-blower noise to that of airplanes, which the city has lobbied strenuously to control. "I enjoy a nice quiet neighborhood. It's about setting neighborhood standards A quality-of-life issue," he said.
An outright ban is not the only option, however. Niziolek said judging from the comments he's received, many want to see the ban focused on two-cycle gas-engine blowers and vacuums because of their fuel use and emissions. However, Niziolek said residents seem OK with allowing electric leaf vacuums with filters for air particulates.
Rueff said the change would be an improvement from current leaf blowers that just have a leaf-vacuum feature. "The benefit of the vacuum is that it doesn't create those dust clouds. Instead of creating a dust cloud, it's going into a bag, like a vacuum in the home," he said.
Niziolek, who shovels and rakes his own yard, said snow blowers are a totally different issue. "Snow blowers aren't on the table," he said. "Leaf blowers are clearly different than snow blowers or lawn mowers."
He said it's "engrained into cultures" that lawn mowing and snow blowing are much more effective compared to their manual counterpart, but feels that doesn't apply to the leaf-blower/rake distinction. "[The use of lawn mowers and snow blowers are] such a huge bite of the apple, it doesn't make sense to have the conversation," Niziolek said.
Kathleen Hennessey, a public relations representative for Bloomington-based Toro Co.'s consumer division, said lawn care companies such as hers have responded to concerns. She said Toro only produces electric leaf blowers, so there are no fumes or gas.
She said Toro developed quieter blowers, but they didn't sell. Hennesey did not return follow-up calls for comment about why electric blowers didn't sell, or about whether Toro would fight the city's proposed ban.
Niziolek said City Councilmember Dean Zimmerman (6th Ward) is on board to help with the ban, and he's now approaching other members of the Council about it.
For more information on Minneapolis antiblower efforts, see www.allianceforsustainability.net (search for "leaf") or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niziolek can be reached at Dan.Niziolek@ci.minneapolis.mn.us or at 673-2210.