Leaf blower - Nir Kafri
A municipal worker with a leaf blower in Tel Aviv last fall. Photo by Nir Kafri
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As new regulations on noise pollution are set to take effect today, the Union of Local Authorities in Israel is preparing to fight them down, taking particular issue with the complete ban on leaf blowers. The union claims there is no adequate replacement for leaf blowers and said it is considering petitioning the High Court of Justice to intervene. A similar petition was already filed by the Israel Landscape and Gardening Association shortly before the Passover holiday.

The new noise regulations also ban car alarms, renovations from 10 P.M. to 7 A.M., dumpster emptying between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M., and the use of noisy gardening equipment from 7 P.M. to 7 A.M. There is also a separate and total ban on noisy leaf blowers in residential areas.

The ban describes a noisy leaf blower as any motorized instrument used for gathering leaves and clearing streets or yards by blowing air.

The union's legal advisor, Kfir Cohen, said yesterday that it was his clients who added the word "noisy" to the ban, in a bid to gain some room for maneuver that would allow local authorities to use leaf blowers anyway.

"The current phrasing of the regulations raises the question of what should be done on a big street that only has offices or workshops and hardly any residential buildings," said Cohen. "We met with Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan just before Passover and tried to reach an agreement that would still allow for the use of leaf blowers, but to no avail."

Hundreds of kilometers to clean

According to the ULAI, large cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have hundreds of kilometers of streets to clean, and there is no replacement for leaf blowers for this purpose.

"You can't send out hundreds or thousands of cleaners to clean all these streets," said Cohen. "This is why we're looking into our options, including going to court."

Earlier, when the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee discussed the proposed regulations, union representatives said that quieter leaf blowers could be used, while the Tel Aviv municipality said it had cut down the hours in which leaf blowers could be operated and reduced the number of complaints from residents.

The Environmental Protection Ministry interprets the new regulations as banning leaf blowers altogether, because it claims there are no devices that match the demands outlined in the regulations.

"The local authorities have the right to fight for their position, but it's inconceivable that they won't enforce a Knesset-legislated law," a statement from the ministry said. "Representatives of the local authorities were invited to the meetings held by the professional committee that prepared the regulations, and took part in later discussions at the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, where many compromises were reached.

"As for the regulation on leaf blowers, the committee unanimously agreed on the phrasing that was eventually confirmed. Many large cities around the world have already banned leaf blowers and still manage to maintain the necessary level of cleanliness. Most of Israel's population lives in urban areas, and the amount of noise to which the population is exposed must be reduced."