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Are Leaves Bad for Storm Drains?

As we continue into the fall weather, you cannot help but notice the immense amounts of leaves all over the cities. They cover lawns, parks, and even the streets all through out the fall months. People every year rake and blow their leaves straight into the street, not thinking much of it. When you think of it, it really is just a small pile of leaves from the lawn, so it really couldn’t create that much harm, right? According to the LDP Watershed coalition, an increase in dead leaves in the storm drains can create 2 big problems, one being residential flooding, and the other can be poor water quality.

Residential flooding can occur when a big storm comes in, creating a surge of rainwater going into the drains. When leaves get into these drains, they can create a clog and make it difficult for rainwater to properly flow through. This will cause the storm drain to back up and that commonly causes basement and yard flooding. The water that is flooding your property could also be of poor quality. This poor water quality is caused by the rainwater flowing through the pile of leaves in the street, quickly leaching out the phosphorus out of the leaves. This excess phosphorus and other leached nutrients get into our local drainage system, making it to our waterways. Having too much of these excess nutrients can cause an unwanted and potentially dangerous algae bloom, discoloring our water, and lowering the oxygen levels in the water. This is negatively impacting our local flora and fauna that live in our waterways as well as people who use those waterways for recreational and drinking purposes.

The big question is, how can we combat this? First off, simply do not rake or blow your leaves into the street. It is inevitable for a few leaves to make it in the drain, but we can stop the bulk of it. You can rake or blow your leaves into a pile and put them into lawn bags. These lawn bags can be used to add to you at home compost or taken to the nearest compost facility so they can properly dispose of and utilize the leaves. You could also rake the leaves into your garden bed and let them naturally decompose, which adds beneficial microbes and nutrients for your upcoming spring planting. Lastly, you can always leave your leaves on the lawn. This adds habitat for animals and insects and adds those benefits right into your lawn for spring.

There are so many ways we can contribute to bettering our local environment and not cause any unwanted harm, this simple action of proper leaf disposal can create a positive impact.