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. 

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.

USA Services Supports the Adopt A Highway Program

USA Services is excited to join the Florida Department of Transportation’s Adopt A Highway Program. As one of the largest Street Sweeping and roadside maintenance companies in the southeast U.S., trash is our life. To help with our commitment to keeping our roadways clean, we recently adopted 2 miles of roadway on SR 50 From SR 551 to SR 436 in Orlando and we’re in the process of Adopting another 2 mile stretch on US 17/92 in Lake Mary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litter is a major problem everywhere. The FDOT currently picks up hundreds of tons of litter per year at an annual cost to the tax payers of over $2 million dollars. The Adopt A Highway program allows companies and organizations to volunteer to help remove that litter, keeping the roads clean and reducing the burden on FDOT and the taxpayers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adopt A Highway crews agree clean the shoulders of the road they sponsor 4 times per year. It is a 2 year commitment to the program but the benefits to the traveling public are huge. It’s a great program and we highly recommend other corporations look into joining to help keep their communities looking beautiful. You can learn more about the program here: http://www.dot.state.fl.us/statemaintenanceoffice/aahinfo.shtm#The Pledge

How To Prepare Your Site For a Street Sweeper

When done correctly, routine street sweeping is the most efficient and cost effective BMP used to keep a construction site in compliance and aesthetically pleasing to potential customers. However like with most services on a construction site, site prep and timing can be the difference between a successful sweep and an “I don’t think your guys showed up last night” sweep. Here are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling and prepping your site for a street sweeping service. 

Site Access– Probably the most forgotten thing to mention when scheduling your sweep is the fact that there is a gate or locked construction fence at the entrance of your site. Always make sure your street sweeper is given the access codes to your site as well as updating your street sweeper when the codes have been changed.

Construction Traffic– Managing construction traffic is never an easy task on a busy construction site. Be prepared to direct vendor traffic or post no parking signs in areas with heavy sediment to give the sweeper full access of the street. A better option would be to hire a sweeping company like USA Services of Florida that sweeps after construction hours to prevent the issue altogether.

Standing Water– Standing water is a sweeper’s worst nightmare because of the smear or film left behind when swept. It gives the impression the street is not clean when in fact the sediment was removed but the water marks remain. To prevent this situation there are a few things to pay attention to. First is obviously the weather. If you know there is a significant amount of rain heading your way today, then today isn’t probably the best day to schedule a sweep. Also make sure your inlet protection isn’t clogged causing the smallest amount of water to sit. The most overlooked cause is irrigation. Make sure not to schedule your sweep the same night the irrigation is scheduled to turn on.

Heavy Washouts– Having heavy washouts scraped prior to your site being swept will not only give you a cleaner street but also significantly cut your cost. There is no point in having a sweeper spend 15 minutes on a pile of dirt that a bucket can clear in one scoop.

Site Map– Giving your sweeper accurate information on where you need swept is by far the most important information. The initial sweep in never an issue but updating as construction continues always tends to slip the mind. We always recommend giving your sweeper an updated site map every month. Make sure to include concrete washout areas, construction trailers, and where you would like to have the sediment dumped on your site.

If you have any questions about properly preparing your site for a street sweeper, please contact us.