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Rake for the Sake of Our Lakes and Streams

Post Date:10/25/2017 9:06 AM

No matter how pretty, autumn’s falling leaves are not welcomed by their aquatic neighbors. If they fall or are raked onto the street, they will get washed into storm sewers and carried into our lakes and streams. Large piles of leaves that are dumped onto hillsides, drainage ways, or public lands cannot decompose readily and can attract nuisance insects and animals.  In addition to degrading water quality and being a nuisance, leaves can be a traffic hazard and they can cause flooding if they obstruct drainage ways or plug culverts, storm drains, or inlets and outlets to storm ponds. Residents are asked to remove leaves, grass clippings, and other yard debris from their curb line and properly dispose of yard waste.

What’s the problem with phosphorus?

In natural settings, phosphorus in fallen leaves is recycled back into the soil. But this recycling system is bypassed in urban areas where hard surfaces are connected to storm sewers. Even when residents live blocks away from a lake or river, the runoff from their yard and street eventually reaches local water bodies. As leaves and other yard waste decomposes, phosphorus is released and fuels the growth of algae…to the point of turning our lakes and rivers green. When the algae decomposes, oxygen is removed from the water and aquatic wildlife is threatened.

What residents can do to help “Keep It Clean” this fall:

  • Keep leaves out of the street, storm drains, and public lands.

  • Mulch leaves in your yard or make a backyard compost site for them.

  • Take leaves to the Olmsted County compost site, free of charge, at 305 Silver Creek Road NE, just across from the recycling center. (The site is open 7 days a week during daylight hours.)

  • Place your waste and recycling bins on the boulevard rather than in the street. This will help facilitate the cleaning of the streets by City street sweepers.

  • Remove debris from the storm drain if rain is on its way and the sweepers haven’t yet passed. This will help prevent the drain from being clogged.

What about the City’s street sweepers?

The City of Rochester operates a fleet of six street sweepers that are responsible for cleaning the 500+ mile network of city streets. The fleet sweeps approximately 9,500 miles every year. During the fall it is most efficient for the fleet to sweep leaves once they are all off the trees so they don’t have to visit each area of town multiple times. The City’s street sweeping program is not designed to pick up leaves from private property that are raked into the street. City of Rochester Ordinance 146A requires property owners to keep all yard waste, including leaves and grass clippings, out of the street. Residents can take their leaves and yard waste, free of charge, to the Olmsted County compost site located at 305 Silver Creek Road NE, just across from the recycling center.

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