Can You Blow Leaves Into the Street?

 In Street Department, Water Pollution Control

By Drew Wallace, Program Coordinator, Water Pollution Control

To some, the leaf blower has turned arm-tiring raking into an effortless autumn task. While to others, the continual drone of its motor is unwelcome noise. This common garden tool has become so controversial in some areas that communities have enacted laws regarding it. But whether you use a leaf blower or a rake-user, the restrictions imposed on where you can send the leaves are the same.

Don’t Clog Storm Drains or Pollute Our Waterways

Blowing leaves into the street gets them out of your yard, but they eventually end up somewhere. For municipal streets, it’s usually in the stormwater drain where they clog pipes and result in street flooding. In extreme cases, water can back up into homes. Instead of blowing leaves into the street, we recommend composting, recycling or raking them to the edge of the street to avoid obstructing stormwater drains.

Why Leaves are a Problem

Leaves release phosphorus when they break down, representing one of the largest sources of urban phosphorus pollution. This is very similar to grass blown in the street during the summer. When left in the street, leaves and grass make a phosphorus-rich tea that washes down storm drains and directly into our lakes, rivers and creeks. It only takes one pound of phosphorus to produce 500 pounds of algae in our receiving waters. Too much algae in the receiving waters can cause an oxygen depletion and create a fish kill. It can also be harmful to humans and land animals.

Quick Facts:

  • More than 50% of phosphorus in urban stormwater annually come from leaves in the street
  • Removing leaves from the street before it rains reduces the amount of phosphorus in urban stormwater by 80% compared to no leaf removal

Be a Good Neighbor

If you use a leaf blower, keep leaves on your property and use the leaf blower for only short periods in the middle of the day. It’s tempting to blow leaves into streets, but the Street Department requests you don’t do this. Instead, keep the piles on the grass right next to the road so the crews can easily remove them. Fall Leaf Pick-up is already underway. The rest of the schedule is as follows:

  • Nov. 11-15: East of Cedar Creek
  • Nov. 18-22: West of Cedar Creek
  • Nov. 25-27: East of Cedar Creek
  • Dec. 2-6: West of Cedar Creek

For additional information regarding your local storm water issues, contact Drew Wallace, Program Coordinator, at 260-925-1714 or dewallace@ci.auburn.in.us.

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