With warmer weather and with regular rain, many of us are mowing our yards more often. It might seem like a great solution to simply blow the clippings into the street. Before you do that, consider either composting or leaving them to naturally break down in your yard (this is like free fertilizer!).
Grass clippings in the street often end up in the storm drains and sewers and are sometimes a hazard to motorcycles and cyclists (it also isn’t very attractive in our neighborhoods).
Storm drains lead to the storm sewer system — you can see the drains, but the pipes connected to the drains are underground. These systems are totally separate from “sanitary sewer” (what drains from your house). The water in storm sewers makes its way into our lakes and local creeks.
Grass clippings, leaves, and other debris have a tendency to “clump” in storm drains and in the sewers. As it builds up, this can cause the drains to back up since they’re not performing at their peak. This, in turn, can cause flooding or drainage issues in the street and our neighborhoods, and that’s something we’re all hoping to avoid!
When grass clippings remain in the street and get wet, they can become slick and hazardous to drivers, cyclists, and motorcycles. If you’ve ever slid on loose gravel, you can imagine how much more you’d slide on wet grass! This is definitely a safety issue and our friends and neighbors will thank you for helping keep debris out of the street.
Further, since our storm runoff ultimately ends up in public waterways, we have to consider the environment. Grass clippings contribute nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, which can cause an unwanted and uncontrolled growth of algae and aquatic weeds. This can rob streams, rivers, and lake of precious oxygen. We’re having serious issues with algae and other plant growth in the lakes, and clippings contribute to that.
When mowing your yard, you might make the first few passes blowing grass away from the street or ditches. If you end up with grass in the street, think about blowing or sweeping it back into your yard.
Finally, per Whitewater Ordinance 12.08.010 – “No person….shall place, deposit, keep, or cause to be placed, deposited or kept in or upon any street, alley, gutter, sidewalk or public ground….any stone, earth….grass clippings or lawn debris….” The Neighborhood Services Officers are issuing warnings to property owners when they find clippings in the street, and if not resolved, that will be followed with fines.
Please help your neighbors and the whole city by not blowing/leaving grass or debris in the street!