You might have peered out of your window once on a rainy fall Edmonds morning, heard a low rumble slowly approaching and happily realized that it’s the city street sweeper making a pass to clean the pine cones and fir needles from your windblown street. Or…it’s actually more likely that you’ve been stuck driving 4 mph behind a sweeper on your way to work and cursing its unhurried presence.
Whichever way, our autumnal deciduous leaf drop does have a habit of creating messy gutter lines and roads which all need to be tidied up. This recurrent mess is an annual calling for the street sweepers to begin their regular Edmonds seasonal migration patterns from Lake Ballinger to Puget Sound and from the far north of Edmonds to the Shoreline border. Then repeat, repeat, repeat…..
While beautifully clean roads are an anticipated result from sweeping and can undoubtedly make a city like ours look even more attractive as well as safe to drive in, did you know there is a much less apparent, yet highly impactful operational function? Street sweeping as pollution control is one of the most important reasons that we sweep and can often be overlooked and undervalued. Street sweeping was named one of the best management practices by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program. Protecting our health and environment is one of the City’s top priorities and it’s truly what’s underneath (the road!) that counts in this case. Unpolluted streets mean a healthier environment, and street sweeping is a very cost effective, widely used stormwater pollution control practice.
The City of Edmonds owns two street sweepers and the primary focus for these operators are to clean our nearly nine square miles of public right of way two or three times over in a calendar year. This program is designed to ensure that the metals, rubbish, sediment and petro-hydrocarbons (think oil, gas and diesel that drip from cars), which are transported by rain and wind, are collected before going into our storm drainage system. Remember, anything that goes down a storm drain flows directly into our watersheds and Puget Sound and can affect everything from fish to people.
On any given day, a sweeper truck can collect upwards of 2,000 pounds of unwanted vegetation and contaminated material which then gets trucked offsite to an engineered facility that is capable of holding those pollutants, and not releasing them back to the environment. Also, by not allowing fallen leaves to remain on the streets to decompose and clog storm drains, street sweepers are also assisting with flood prevention and excess nutrient runoff, which can contribute to algal blooms and low oxygen levels in our watersheds. You may have never associated algal blooms and street sweeping before, but it is interesting to see how this unlikely connection can start a domino effect in impacting our watersheds such as Lake Ballinger.
Those guys pictured at left are Tom and Ryan. They have collectively been street sweeping our Edmonds roads for almost 20 years They love their sweepers and waving at residents (when they’re not posing for pictures).
So here now is Tom and Ryan’s friendly Edmonds public service announcement….please, please, please, do .not blow, rake or pile any yard waste from your property onto city streets. Those street sweepers are not a lawn service by any means, and if we aren’t currently cleaning your neighborhood, the yard waste piles end up becoming rather unsightly and ultimately just clog the storm drains to which these guys are working so hard to keep cleaned off. So remember every time you see a street sweeper coming down your road with its side brooms whirling, please afford it some additional space, have a little extra patience and remember that it’s removing pollutants from Edmonds city streets and the environment…at about 4 mph!.
If you have questions about the City of Edmonds’ street sweeping program or any comments/concerns regarding related stormwater issues, contact Patrick Johnson, the City of Edmonds’ Stormwater Technician, at 425-771-0220 or [email protected]
— Submitted by Patrick Johnson, City of Edmonds