How Street Sweeping Keeps Your Water Clean

Most Floridians know how lucky they are to live in the Sunshine State. People flock here for the white sand beaches and stunning vistas, and we get to enjoy it all year long. But did you know that storms are what make these beautiful scenes possible?

While nearly everyone loves a clear, sunny day, storms give our flora the ability to grow into towering trees and gorgeous flowers. You know what happens to the absorbed water in these forested areas, but you may have wondered what happens to all that storm water when it falls along streets that have no plants or lakes nearby.

In this blog, we will explain how Florida storm water is recycled and how what goes down storm drains ends up in our waterways.

The Water Cycle

Before we discuss how storm water is recycled, let’s review the general water lifecycle. Since the cycle is a continuous loop, it doesn’t have a clear starting point, but we’ll begin with the ocean since we have already mentioned Florida’s ocean views. When the sun beats down on the ocean, water evaporates into the air and travels to the atmosphere.

Once vaporous cloud particles grow heavy, they fall to the earth in the form of rain. Once the rain hits land, plants and waterways absorb most of it. However, in areas with impenetrable surfaces like roads, roofs, and sidewalks, rain becomes storm water runoff.

Storm Drains

Without storm drains, storm water runoff could cause flash floods. This drainage system can vary from city-wide structures to a residential dry well, but most water enters systems via street gutters. You’ll notice street gutters on road curbs and sidewalks as the metal-slated rectangles. They are so common because each gutter must take in storm water and transport it to the nearest waterway to avoid flooding.

Storm drainage systems are separate from wastewater systems that drain dirty water from your home. That water flows through underground pipes to your local wastewater treatment plant. There, water undergoes rigorous cleaning before it can re-enter the environment.

Untreated Runoff

While storm drains help protect our cities from floods, they do not treat the removed water. Runoff simply journeys through the drains and enters streams, ponds, oceans, lakes, and reservoirs untreated —but it’s not just water that enters these water supplies. As storm water flows over nonporous areas, it picks up pollutants like motor oil, trash, and various chemicals.

Storm Water Solution

In Florida, the first line of defense against these pollutants is street sweeping. USA Services vacuums streets before storm water has a chance to transport debris and chemicals into our water supply. Street Sweeping is a FDEP preventative maintenance service that protects our waterways by moving pollutants at the source.  This service is a key component in keeping our drinking water supply clean—if you want to know more, give us a call today. 

Gearing Up for Mardi Gras: Street Sweepers of Fat Tuesday

Cleaning up the streets after a Mardi Gras celebration.Also known as “Fat Tuesday” in English, Mardi Gras is a long-time tradition with origins in several Christian faiths. Since many early cities had French settlers, Mardi Gras has become a popular festival in certain areas of the United States.

Quality Street Cleaning

Although the spectators are vital to the celebration, street sweepers and other city staff are essential. If quality street cleaning equipment doesn’t arrive after the festival, cities will have difficulty getting even the simplest street clean. Street sweepers typically perform the following types of tasks:

  • Large/heavy construction debris removal

  • Gravel or pavement milling before replacement

    Gravel or pavement milling before replacement

  • Municipal street cleaning

As you can see, street sweepers deal with many large and difficult items. They have the capability to clean streets after a Mardi Gras celebration, but it’s important to know about the situational factors. After discussing the origins of Mardi Gras, we’ll address these factors.

Mardi Gras Over the Years

This celebration was originally intended as a time of indulgence before the Lent season begins on Ash Wednesday. With modern adjustments and newer traditions, Mardi Gras has become more of a spectator festival than a religious event.

The basic celebration includes revelry during the week leading up to Fat Tuesday, the actual day of Mardi Gras. Parades, concerts, balls, and many other events all signify the yearly celebration.

Since the majority of Mardi Gras celebrations occur on public streets and roads, a large street cleaning effort helps complete cleanup after the festivities end. Below, we’ll talk about why street cleaning after public events like Mardi Gras matters so much, and we’ll discuss what factors impact the success of this process.

Carnival Hot Spots

Three main cities boast the largest Mardi Gras celebrations in southern Florida. These include Pensacola, Hollywood, and Orlando. Although each city has its own style and way of celebrating, Orlando’s Universal Studios boasts one of the largest celebrations in the state.

From February to April, the successful theme park hosts concerts, special parades, and more related activities. Events happen on weekends leading up to and after Fat Tuesday. Regular park admission includes the cost of these events, attracting many people to enjoy t he celebration.

Post-Celebration Issues

As you might guess, the streets of any city play a huge role in Mardis Gras-related celebrations. In fact, New Orleans Mardi Gras estimates as many as half a million spectators lining their major parade routes. But what other factors besides crowded streets can affect their cleanliness?

Where large numbers gather, large amounts of garbage result. Some city officials even measure Mardi Gras success based on the amount of garbage left behind. But street cleaning does more than tackle large pieces of garbage. It also combats dirt, buildup, and other common street elements.

Traditional “Float Throws”

In addition to common street debris, carnivals provide a unique assortment of uncommon debris. Most floats distribute and throw many different items including:

  • Moon pies

  • Beads

  • Coins (or krewe-marked doubloons)

  • Candies

  • Plastic cups.

As the parades progress, the streets build up a large amount of these items each time. Unfortunately, many of these items catch in t he street sweeper brushes. The sweeper usually has to manually clean such items out before continuing on. This is one key challenge to post-Fat Tuesday street cleaning.


Celebrating cities like New Orleans and Orlando have an average yearly humidity between 74-76%. This added moisture also impact s street cleaning processes. Street texture and moisture both determine the amount of power required for a full cleaning.

Overly dry or muddy streets can negatively impact the cleaning process on both ends of the spectrum. Since southern Florida is extremely humid, this is a common issue that street sweepers deal with.

Other Issues

Since many carnival events consist of multiple parades in the same traffic area, it can prove difficult to combat the waste until after all parades cease. As you can imagine, items build up on the street each time. This makes it difficult for each successive parade to move through the street unhindered.

Parked cars can also prevent proper cleaning from taking place. For this reason, street cleaners usually post parking warnings before hand. The high volume of people and traffic associated with Mardi Gras celebrations makes it difficult to ready streets for normal cleanings.

A Return to Normalcy

Despite these various issues in post celebration cleanup, the right street sweeper can get any task done with the following traits:

  • Applicable job knowledge

  • Correct and functioning equipment

  • Timely scheduled arrival and cleaning

  • Sufficient staff support

If you’ve had disappointment when cleaning post-party streets before, make sure to verify these characteristics in your current street sweeper. Once you find someone who can provide all these requirements, you’ll find the process goes much more smoothly.

The next time you enjoy a Mardi Gras celebration or parade in a public street, think about all that work that goes into cleaning it up afterwards. You’ll likely appreciate the event all the more, as well as feel more motivated to do your part to clean up.

Meet Kra Whitmore at USA Services

In the blog this week we thought we’d take the opportunity to introduce a member of our staff, West Coast Regional Manager Kra Whitmore. Kra started out in the sweeping business over 30 years ago working as an operator in his dad’s street sweeping business. Since then his knowledge has grown to make him one of the most experienced and knowledgeable people working in the street sweeping business today. Kra began with USA Services in 2008 and he now is a key member of the USA Services senior management team. In his role of Regional Manager Kra is responsible for overseeing all facets of our operation up and down Florida’s west coast including in Tampa, Ft Myers, Naples, Sarasota and Lakeland. This includes business development, maintaining customer relationships, overseeing day to day operations and more. Kra’s years of experience give him expertise in all facets of the sweeping business: from internal maintenance and operations to business development in both the public and private sectors of the industry. No matter what his focus at the moment is, Kra believes in always paying attention to the details and the importance of honesty.

Kra and his wife Lynne have been married for 25 years. They have 5 children and 2 grandchildren. He enjoys hunting, exercise and sporting events, especially college football…Go Gators!

How Street Sweeping Protects Florida’s Wildlife

Beyond Florida’s beautiful beaches and pristine waves, a garbage patch lurks in the Atlantic Ocean.

Like its sinister Texas-sized sister in the Pacific, this garbage patch is massive, stretching from Virginia to Cuba. Billions of garbage bit s become deadly snacks for wildlife. Animals accidentally or intentionally ingest the minute particles, not knowing the danger.

Pollution problems like the Atlantic garbage patch endanger wildlife of all kinds, whether it swims in the seas, dwells on the land, or f lies through the air. And those pollution problems have only one source: us. Each particle reached the garbage patch after human pollution and inaction allowed it to drift away.

Florida has more than 1,260 miles of coastline, so its residents have an obligation to stop trash from washing into water supplies, including the ocean and gulf waters around our peninsula. Street sweeping is a major part of Florida’s pollution reduction efforts. Let’s examine which Florida species face extinction, why pollution affects their survival, and how street sweeping becomes part of the solution.

Florida’s Threatened and Endangered Species

Wildlife management and tracking efforts take place at both the federal and state levels. At the federal level, there are several designations for at-risk species:

  • Endangered: a species in danger of extinction
  • Threatened: a species on the brink of becoming endangered

Not all species that live in or around Florida are considered endangered or threatened by federal agencies. However, sometimes Florida wildlife management classifies a species as threatened or of special concern within state jurisdiction.

According to a report from 2011 (the most recent available report), Florida has:

  • 47 federally designated endangered species
  • 24 federally designated threatened species
  • 19 state-designated threatened species
  • 42 state species of special concern

These threatened or endangered animals come from all five classes of vertebrates: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Notable animals on the watch list include:

  • American alligators
  • American crocodiles
  • Florida manatees
  • Florida panthers
  • Green sea turtles
  • Hawksbill sea turtles
  • Humpback whales
  • Kemp’s ridley sea turtles
  • Leatherback sea turtles
  • Loggerhead sea turtles
  • North Atlantic right whales
  • Sei whales
  • Sperm whales
  • Several species of beach mice

Garbage Pollution’s Threats to Rare Wildlife

Garbage pollution isn’t the only threat to these endangered and threatened species. But, it is one pollution source we have much m ore control over-if we choose to be careful. The giant garbage patches in the ocean accumulated largely because someone littered or mismanaged garbage in landfills.

Ocean garbage patches aren’t giant quilts of loosely connected soda bottles and food wrappers. Most of the garbage lies beneath the surface, so you might not be aware of it even on a boat in the middle of the garbage patch. Most garbage particles in the ocean are small, less than the weight of a paper clip.

Nonetheless, floating ocean garbage poses major threats to ocean life. Animals might eat or swallow these particles. They can also get tangled in garbage with holes and odd-sized openings. Plus, the garbage breaks down in the ocean, which releases harmful chemicals toxic to ocean life.

What can we do to prevent garbage patches from growing? The logical answer-manage our trash better-sounds simple, but with so many people using so much trash, the problem becomes more complicated. Everyone has to do his or her part to reduce the problem, but not everyone takes an active role. That’s where street sweepers step in to pick up the slack.

Street Sweeping to Protect Animals from Trash Pollution

To get an idea of how street sweepers reduce pollution, think back on the last time you went to an event with a large crowd of people. It might have been a parade, an outdoor concert, a theme park, a fair, or a festival.

Now, recall the amount of garbage you saw. You probably saw several overstuffed garbage cans and countless pieces of litter underfoot. After a big event, it takes a concentrated effort of many people to pick up all that trash. And unfortunately, people miss many of the smaller, more dangerous pieces of garbage. They can’t even see the microscopic debris left behind.

Street sweepers, on the other hand, can efficiently and effectively clear away garbage. They can pick up and dispose of garbage that’ s large, small, and invisible to the human eye. No wonder cities in many coastal states consider street sweeping an essential part of pollution control and reduction!

Although endangered wildlife and the ocean garbage patches remain big problems, we can do our part to stop them from growing. Remember to throw away all your trash at big events, and make efforts to use reusable or recyclable products. Between your efforts and the clean-up work of street sweepers, we can help Florida’s endangered and threatened species survive-and thrive.

The North American Power Sweeping Association celebrates 15 years

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA) and USA Services anniversary as an inaugural member.  NAPSA is a nonprofit association made up of 300+ contract sweeper, service providers and sweeping equipment dealers, manufacturers and suppliers. 

NAPSA is dedicated to enhancing services to the sweeping industry as well as promoting and educating the power sweeping community while enhancing the environment.  When NAPSA was first created in 2000, the inaugural members had high expectations for the sweeping industry’s association.  Since then, it’s membership has grown steadily each year and we look to the future with much anticipation.

Here are some of the ways NAPSA works to enhance the sweeping industry:

  • It’s website provides a community for hundreds of industry professionals to share ideas, expertise and experience.
  • The association leverages the power of its membership to negotiate supplier and manufacture discounts
  • There is a mentoring program where more experienced members assist newer members as they grow and develop their businesses.
  • NAPSA worked with insurance, financing and legal agencies to develop programs specifically tailored towards our industry. 
  • Through the association a “certified sweeping company” program was developed.  It provides a formal mechanism to recognize those companies that operate in a professional manner.  The program established a strict set of measurable professional practices that qualifying companies must maintain.  USA Services is proud to be a Certified Sweeping Company committed to upholding the practices and ethics this program requires.
  • The association is very involved in the industry’s annual trade show – the North American Pavement Maintenance Convention.   NAPSA provides seminars, roundtables, networking events and other functions that significantly improve the quality of the convention and provide numerous benefits to its members.

USA Services will have several members of its staff attending the Pavement Maintenance Convention during the last week of January 2015 in Nashville, TN.  We look forward to spending some of that time helping NAPSA and all its members celebrate this landmark anniversary.