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Source of year-round leaf blowing in Ballston remains a mystery

In Ballston, regardless of the season, workers have been spotted wielding leaf blowers.

Exactly who pays for this work, however, continues to be a mystery.

At least anecdotally, the continued popularity of remote work after Covid has had at least one downside for some residents: more exposure to the sound of leaf blowers. Former opinion columnist Jane Green noted the nuisance in a widely read piece two years ago, rallying 43% of respondents to the cause of banning gas-powered leaf blowers in Arlington, according to an ARLnow poll.

Then last month, a Ballston resident tipped us off to the noise, and in an ensuing unscientific poll a plurality — 41% — said the Ballston leaf blower issue was the most valid noise complaint among two others received by ARLnow.

In a follow-up interview, the anonymous resident, who lives near Welburn Square, says he has heard the leaf blowers ever since moving to his apartment three years ago. He has typically observed the activity around 8 a.m. near the parking lot for Truist Bank (920 N. Taylor Street).

“I frequently hear two leaf blowers running at the same time. I will look out my window and can see the workers wandering around the block spraying with the machines,” he said. “This occurs when there are no leaves and year-round.”

ARLnow scoped out the parking lot and a bank employee confirmed hearing the leaf blowers sometimes.

The bank branch manager stepped in and told ARLnow that the bank does not employ landscapers who use leaf blowers. He said he has never heard noise from leaf blowers nor, to his knowledge, have customers complained about them.

Next door, at the The Jefferson senior living facility, a concierge and two other employees said they have never heard residents or coworkers complain about noises from leaf blowers.

The concierge told ARLnow that he has only occasionally seen landscape workers blowing leaves and debris in The Jefferson courtyard area.

“They are just doing their job. The ones I have seen have only been within our property and do their work pretty quickly,” he said. “It’s also never early in the morning, I could see if this was happening early on in the day, but when I’ve seen them it has been in the afternoon.”

The Ballston Business Improvement District did not respond to questions about whether it had any insights into the mystery of the leafless leaf blowing.

While the hiring organization and the reason behind year-round leaf blowing in Ballston remains unknown, others, like Green, may sympathize. The former columnist wrote in 2021 that she heard leaf blowers daily while working from her apartment.

“Leaf blowers are a drain on quality of life. Their piercing noise shatters concentration or the enjoyment of the outdoors. They spew noxious gas into the air. They can destroy insect habitats,” Green said in her piece, which became the site’s second most-read article in 2021.

She encouraged residents to sign a petition to help put an end to the excessive noise. The petition is shy of its 2,000 signatures and short of its goal of 2,500 signatures. It was created by Quiet Clean NOVA, which advocates for regulations on gas-powered yard equipment.

For now, the mystery remains.

“It seems like a waste of money that generates noise and air pollution for no reason. It seems to make no sense to me,” the Ballston resident said. “I understand if this was happening in the fall when there are leaves everywhere, but this happens year-round. It’ll be the middle of the winter with snow on the ground.”

The reporter, Hallie LeTendre, is a summer intern. Today is her last day at ARLnow.

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