5 Best Management Practices for Street Sweeping

Cities across America engage in numerous practices designed to keep pollutants out of waterways. Some solutions attempt to capture pollution before it drains into waterways. The captured water undergoes treatment before the cleaner water gets released.

These end-of-pipe, infrastructure-based solutions play key roles in preventing water pollution, but they also present cost-effectiveness issues. According to WorldSweeper.com, it costs 4 to 10 times more to treat already polluted stormwater than to perform street sweeping. Street sweeping picks up many dangerous contaminants before they get swept into stormwater runoff and natural bodies of water.

If your city engages in street sweeping, you want to make sure those efforts produce optimal results. Check out the best management practices for street sweeping below to find areas where your city can improve.

1. Perform Street Sweeping to Reduce Pollution, Not to Make Streets Look Good

Some cities send street sweepers out most frequently to downtown areas. These areas experience high amounts of traffic and represent the heart of the city, so sweeping their roads regularly allows the city to maintain a clean image for citizens and visitors.

However, sweeping mainly for aesthetic reasons misses the point. Downtown roadways tend not to have as many dangerous, pollution-causing particles as arterial roads. To reduce stormwater pollution in a cost-effective manner, city officials should set up a schedule that promotes pollution-focused street sweeping, not cosmetic street sweeping.

2. Target Arterial Roadways

Arterial roadways are the widest, busiest city roads because they funnel cars to and from major thoroughfares, like highways. These streets accumulate the most pollutants. For example, figures from Seattle show that arterial roads make up on 4% of the city’s surface area but contribute 16% of the pollutants in stormwater.

Targeting arterial roadways allows street sweepers to pick up the most contaminants while driving the fewest miles. This plan of attack uses stormwater pollution prevention funds effectively and keeps more pollutants out of the water.

3. Focus on Removing the Smallest Particles

The public tends to think about street sweeping as a means to clear away large debris on roadways, such as fall leaves and the aftermath of a parade or street festival. It’s important to clear away large debris, but the smallest particles on roadways ultimately cause the most problems in stormwater.

Which small particles are the worst offenders? The culprits include:

  • Brake dust
  • Auto exhaust remnants
  • Zinc from car tires

Our cars shed these small particles and leave them on city streets. As soon as strong rain comes down, the pollutants get swept away into storm drains and towards natural waterways. Regular street sweeping on busy roads and sweeping performed before precipitation falls can reduce the contamination caused by these small pieces of debris.

4. Use Street Sweepers That Collect Data

Newer street sweeper models have the capability to collect data while they sweep. This information becomes invaluable to city planners who want to ensure their efforts make a difference and their funds are spent wisely.

  • Data-collection computers in street sweepers may be able to track the following: Miles traveled
  • Amount of trash and pollutants collected
  • Fuel used traveling to and from landfills
  • Routes of street sweepers
  • Probable endpoint of runoff from each part of a route

If your sweepers collect this data, examine it closely so you can further refine your street sweeping routes and practices. Make sure you also analyze the trash and debris collected by your sweepers so you know the most common and most dangerous contaminants lining your city’s streets.

Use the best practices described above to streamline your city’s street sweeping efforts. Check out our other blogs posts for more insights into the benefits of street sweeping.

Preparing for the Holidays: Projects to Spruce up Your Home

The holiday season is a time for family and friends, and you love throwing parties and inviting guests to your house this time of year. There’s nothing better than filling your home with people you love and enjoying seasonal traditions together.

You want your guests to feel comfortable in your home and to enjoy themselves. You’ve already begun putting up decorations and sprucing up the guest bedrooms, but you worry that you might be forgetting something.

Below, we’ve listed easy projects that many homeowners forget in the rush of turkey-preparing and eggnoggulping. These projects will help give your home a welcoming feel so that your holiday guests are comfortable and impressed.

Have Your Road Swept

Ever had to climb through a clogged gutter to get to someone’s home? You usually lose your holiday cheer when you are standing up to your knees in dirty storm water.

Clean the gutters, curb, and street outside your home so that guests don’t have to battle their way to your front porch, especially in Florida’s winter rains. Keeping a clean street does more than just eliminate the chance of someone tripping and filing an angry, Merry Christmas-lawsuit: it also improves the appearance of your home. A well-maintained street may be the first thing that your guests notice.

A professional street sweeper can make quick work of your neighborhood’s street and gutters. Talk to your street sweeping company today about sweeping your neighborhood for your home owner’s association (or contact your city’s local government office and request a community cleaning).

Dewinterize Your Walkways

After you’ve taken care of your street gutters, prepare your walkways for the holidays. Florida doesn’t get snow and ice very often, but it gets plenty of rain, and a slick, wet front walkway can be quite dangerous for your guests.

Sweep your walkway and clear it of leaves, branches, and other debris. Replace that loose piece of cement or move your dog’s toys to the backyard. Then lay a light layer of sand on the walk to help prevent accidental slips and falls.

A well-lit walkway can also help guests feel safe and comfortable. Make sure to replace your front porch lightbulbs, and consider installing a lighting system along your front walk. If you don’t want to deal with the electrical hassle of a new system, simply fill paper bags with sand and place a small candle carefully in the center. These beautiful luminaries-an American tradition-are a perfect finishing touch to your exterior holiday décor.

Declutter

After your guests arrive triumphantly on your front porch, they need a place to shed coats and scarves, and you need a place to store them. Decluttering before your party can help you avoid an awkward storage problem.

Begin with your closets and sort the contents into piles: a throw-away pile, a give-away pile, a keep pile, and a keep-but-store pile. Anything in poor condition should be thrown away; anything in good condition but no longer needed should be given away; and so forth. You’ll be surprised by how much you can empty your closets, particularly when you store summer items.

Do the same in dressers and drawers, under beds, and in bathroom storage areas. The more you can empty your storage spaces, the more space your guests will have for their possessions. Half-empty closets and drawers give a clean, tidy impression that is very welcoming to guests.

Prepare Appliances

For many, the holidays revolve around two important things: people and food. If you’re preparing hors d’oeuvres, sides, dinners, and treats for your guests, you need your kitchen appliances to be in top condition.

In the holiday rush, many people do a thorough cleaning of their kitchen-and in the process, ruin Thanksgiving dinner. Clean your microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher, but don’t use the self-clean cycle on the oven. The cycle can be very difficult on the appliance and cause it to malfunction, and you’ll be ordering take-out Chinese food instead of enjoying your turkey.

Make sure that your freezer is defrosted and organized so that leftovers have a home for the holidays. This may mean that you have to clear blocked freezer vents so that the freezer operates at full capacity.

Deodorize Your Home

The delicious smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen are usually enough to put your holiday guests at ease. However, many homeowners become accustomed to the smell of their own homes-a smell which, unfortunately, isn’t always pleasant to guests.

If dinner and the giant blue spruce in your living room aren’t doing enough to cover up a musty smell, put a few drops of lavender oil or vanilla on your furnace filter and turn the fan on. A subtle, pleasant smell will fill your home and ensure that unpleasant odors are eliminated.

 

As you prepare your home for the holidays from the outside in, you’ll help your family and friends feel welcome and comfortable. At this special time of year, your relationships are something to celebrate, and your prepared-for-the-holidays home is a great place to do so.

Contact your local specialists for help with professional projects (like a thorough street sweeping) and enjoy the season surrounded by loved ones and a beautiful home.

Why Local Governments Spend Money on Street Sweeping

Street sweeping is a dirty job. Just ask Rex Davis. He works for Seattle Public Utilities, and he’s one of several people assigned to analyze the grime picked up by Seattle’s street sweepers.

What he sees is not pretty. According to a June 2015 Seattle Weekly article, when it’s his turn, Davis digs through piles of putrid trash. Davis and his colleagues perform this duty every two weeks so they’ll know exactly what street sweepers collect-and how much.

The numbers are staggering. In a single year, Seattle’s street-swept garbage mass contains around 130 tons of water pollutants. But thanks to street sweepers, those pollutants never get the chance to actually contaminate the natural waterways around Seattle.

Although street sweeping is a dirty job, someone has to do it. The EPA recommends street sweeping as a best practice cities should engage in to minimize stormwater pollutant runoff. Consequently, many municipal governments allocate money to this public service every year.

In this blog, we’ll examine why the EPA encourages street sweeping and why city governments take that mandate to heart. We’ll also look at whether street sweeping delivers what it promises: does it actually protect natural waterways from pollution?

The EPA and Street Sweeping

On its website, the EPA names several purposes of street sweeping. These purposes include keeping city roadways beautiful and clean, controlling dust, and decreasing pollution.

To ensure local street-sweeping programs accomplish these purposes, the EPA also makes recommendations for effective municipal street sweeping:

  • Schedules. Cities should have a schedule to ensure effective street sweeping. The schedule should be flexible to account for weather, climate, and local events that increase street garbage.
  • Record keeping. Cities should track how many miles of road they sweep and how much waste they collect. These records help them evaluate their efforts and plan for the future.
  • Testing and disposal. Cities should test waste sample for pollutants, carcinogens, and other harmful materials so they can dispose of them safely.
  • Reuse. Some collected street-sweeping waste can be reused elsewhere, as long as it is free from materials that could harm local water supplies.
  • Parking policies. Cities should establish parking policies to ensure street sweepers can capture as much pollution and trash as possible. Cities should inform the public about these parking policies.
  • Equipment maintenance. Cities should keep street sweeping equipment in good condition if they maintain their own fleet. Some cities choose to hire private street sweeping companies to minimize equipment maintenance costs.

The EPA notes that when cities follow these practices, street sweeping is an effective way to keep pollutants out of stormwater runoff and natural waterways. In fact, modern street sweepers often keep water- protection costs low, particularly in urban areas with lots of paved surfaces.

Local Governments and Street Sweeping

Local governments in many cities nationwide take the EPA’s guidelines on street sweeping seriously and put them into practice. In Florida, for example, many city government websites contain pages about street sweeping services. Those pages educate citizens on why street sweeping matters and report on the city’s efforts. The pages also frequently contain handy street sweeping schedules or parking policies.

State governments also make rules and recommendations about street sweeping. For instance, the state government might mandate how cities dispose of waste collected during street sweeping. Those policies ensure that pollutants make it to the correct landfills and stay permanently out of water supplies.

In some states, several local governments band together in efforts to keep stormwater runoff as clear of pollution as possible. One organization formed for that purpose is the Florida Stormwater Association. Its members include many local governments, a few private firms, and some academic institutions. Groups like FSA work to ensure that money spent on street sweeping and related practices is being used wisely.

Street Sweeping and Pollution-Free Waterways

Let’s return now to Rex Davis and Seattle’s piles of street-sweeper garbage. Davis and others who work with him analyze this trash as part of research efforts approved by the EPA. The EPA wanted better data on how effective street sweeping is.

Four years into the study, Seattle’s data show positive results. The method proves to be not only effective but also cost-effective. Seattle reports that it costs only about $4.80 per pound to keep pollutants out of the waterways with street sweeping. Other methods for accomplishing the same objective can cost $8 to $50 per pound.

Based on those numbers, Seattle plans to sweep twice as many miles of its streets. City officials hopes these extra street-sweeping efforts will keep 140 tons of pollution out of water each year.

Street Sweeping and You

No matter where you live in the United States, you can do your part to ensure street sweepers in your area work effectively. Start by not littering and never throwing trash or contaminants down storm drains.

Also, make street sweeping an easy task for your local sweepers. Check your city’s website for a streetsweeping schedule, and keep your cars and trash cans off the street on sweeping days. Your efforts will ensure that the money your city spends on street sweeping is well spent-it will keep pollutants out of the waterways near you.

6 Reasons to Keep Your City Streets Clean

Whether you live in a bustling metropolis or a quaint, small town, you want to present the best possible image. When your city looks its best, visitors will feel attracted to your town’s many restaurants and outdoor adventures, and long-time residents will want to stay there for the rest of their lives.

If your city lacks motivation or community support necessary to start a no-littering campaign or hire a few extra street sweepers, keep reading. Clean streets do more than just improve the downtown atmosphere-they provide a host of other benefits as well. Read on to discover more.

1. Trash Encourages Insects and Pests

Mice, rats, pigeons, and flies all thrive off of decomposing garbage. When you let your dirty streets take over the city, you also allow rodents free reign of the open areas, like parks, sidewalks, and public courtyards. Many of these pests also carry diseases that can harm residents or even cause a city-wide epidemic.

When you clear away debris, you confine rodents and insects to the landfill and discourage them from roaming the streets.

2. Trash Turns Away Tourists

If first-time visitors to your city describe it as “dirty,” “cluttered,” or “trashy,” they’ll take their hard-earned savings to a cleaner environment where they feel comfortable. And in this digital age, you can rest assured that visitors to your less-than-fair city will post photos of your local trash problem for all of the internet to see.

Even dedicated townspeople will avoid public places that they find distasteful, especially if the oncebeautiful public park now smells of rotting garbage.

So if you want to increase your tax base from tourism and encourage a community mentality, cater to outsiders by maintaining a pristine image. Issue citations to residents who litter in the streets, and regularly sweep major roadways to keep garbage in check.

3. Trash Lowers Property Value

Permanent residents face challenges when they try to sell property that is surrounded by urban debris. Even if homeowners take care not to litter or leave trash lying around, loose garbage from neighbors or discarded food from the windows of vehicles can accumulate in front of their house and discourage potential buyers.

To create a nice, clean community that attracts responsible homeowners, help your residents maintain their curb appeal by scheduling regular street cleanings.

4. Trash Is a Safety Hazard

Have you ever driven on a road while it was under construction? The debris and excess gravel from the paving equipment probably wore on your tires. Maybe a few rocks flew up and chipped or cracked your windshield.

Just as a debris-filled roadway threatens your vehicle, a dirty street or sidewalk poses a risk to all passersby. Just a few years ago, a young man walking barefoot on the beach cut his toe on a small shard of glass, and as a result, doctors amputated his toe.

Food-related waste can also grow mold, bacteria, and even diseases that can be spread even with minimal contact. Don’t force your residents to live amid the rubbish-take preventative measures to avoid future littering, and set a date for a community clean-up event to show everyone how important urban cleanliness is.

5. Trash Clogs Drains

During rain or hurricane season, any trash on the street will get swept along in the current. Though you may think that a little rain will wash away the garbage and eliminate your responsibility, the combination of litter and water actually presents new civil challenges.

Regular city storm drains are designed to handle inclement weather-even for the dramatic hundred-year storm. But too much clutter in city gutters can create major build-up in storm drains, leaving the streets filled with deep puddles.

Take action now before your storm drains fail. Don’t just sweep unwanted items into the gutter-make sure that all trash gets cleared from your streets on a regular basis to avoid clogged drains and flooded streets.

6. Trash Pollutes Natural Resources

When people don’t dispose of their garbage properly, household items like hairspray or interior paint can cause an environmental problem.

When toxins from residential trash seep into the soil, they can stall plant growth and even kill young developing buds. Any wildlife in the area who come in contact with trash also risk injury, disease, and death from human carelessness. And when trash gets carried onto the beach or reservoir, it threatens the natural beauty of the area and the precious resources your city needs.

Litter also indicates that residents of your town choose to toss out their unwanted items instead of recycling them.

Encourage your city’s residents to reduce their environmental impact by composting their food waste and recycling their paper and plastic goods. A city-wide recycling program will reduce the amount of trash on the streets, and it will also remind your citizens that their choices impact those around them.

No matter the size of your city’s population or the square footage of your town, you’ll benefit your city government, your local residents, and visiting tourists when you maintain your streets. To preserve your city’s image, call a street sweeper today.

Does Your Road Need Guardrails? Take a Lesson from These 3 Dangerous Roads

Without warning, a car veers off the road. Unfortunately, the driver sustains a serious injury and totals the car.

As emergency vehicles arrive on scene, they must determine the accident’s cause. Was the driver distracted or sleepy? Was the road wet after a storm? Perhaps the driver overcorrected and drove off the edge because of a missing guardrail.

Although accidents have many causes, most highway engineers and civic planners agree that safety precautions like guardrails curtail serious accidents and keep drivers safe on busy roads.

As you’ve read earlier in our blog, roads benefit from guardrails and regular guardrail repair. But if you still aren’t convinced, take a look at some of America’s most dangerous roads. Then, judge for yourself.

1. Interstate 15, Las Vegas to Los Angeles

It’s easy to argue that this highway is one of the busiest stretches of interstate roads in the western US, given the fact that Las Vegas and Los Angeles are both big-draw tourist destinations.

Although in most places the road lies flat and relatively straight, I-15 still claims too many fatalities each year. In fact, some drivers may be lulled into complacency by the relatively easy driving. The American Auto Association claims that too many drivers are distracted at the wheel. Others drink and drive or neglect their seatbelts.

Even though drivers are largely to blame for these accidents, too few guardrails may also contribute. If a sleepy truck driver crosses the median, a guardrail may be the only thing stopping the truck from a head-on collision on the opposite side of the freeway. On the other hand, a well-designed guardrail can keep a drifting truck or other vehicle in its own lane and startle the driver awake.

Since 2005, infrastructure updates have helped I-15 improve its safety record, though many areas still contain no guardrails.

2. Interstate 95, Florida

Of course, the Southeast is not immune from dangerous highways, either. Florida’s I-95 has the dubious honor of a number-one placement on the list of most dangerous roads (as compiled by the Daily Beast).

Between 2004 and 2008, 662 fatalities occurred on a 382-mile stretch of freeway, at a rate of nearly two fatal accidents per mile. This record is especially sobering when one considers that this interstate features guardrails along wide stretches of roadways.

Most officials blame the high rate of accidents on speed and inattention. Distracted drivers who text and multitask also cause multiple accidents.

At the same time, other officials speculate that the accident rate would be even higher without guardrails. Civic designers and guardrail maintenance personnel work diligently to repair aging, damaged, or out-of-place guardrails both before and after accidents along I-95.

3. US Highway 550 (The Million Dollar Highway), Silverton to Ouray, CO

Although local residents in both Ouray and Silverton, Colorado contend that Highway 550 isn’t as dangerous as its reputation proclaims, most drivers would beg to differ. Why else would USA Today proclaim the road as one of the world’s 12 most dangerous?

Northbound travelers from Ouray to Silverton may feel secure even without guardrails-as the road has none.

True, those who travel the road frequently are accustomed to the narrow, high-altitude passes, but the average tourist may understandably hold his or her breath. After all, the southbound lane on this 11,000-foot pass hovers on the edge of a deep precipice. At any point, a car could plunge over the side, and some cars have done so.

For those who follow the 25-mph speed limit, the road is safe enough in summer months; however, during the heaviest snows, the road has to close occasionally or even seasonally when conditions are too dangerous. Local snow plowers have no room to plow icy, snow-packed roads in the winter; hence, the lack of guardrails.

While a road without guardrails may indeed cause more caution while driving, a better solution might be to invest in strong guardrails and snowplows with narrower blade spans.

The Need for Infrastructure Updates

When dangerous roadways lead to fatal accidents, structural engineers jump into action; however, many older structures (including older guardrails) are part of the safety problem.

To address safety concerns, the Federal Highway Administration has recommended additional scrutiny of aging guardrails. The FHA also recommends rigorous testing for newer guardrails, to ensure they protect, not endanger, drivers.

Of course, guardrail manufacturers can produce quality products, only to face poor installation techniques. Experienced teams often repair faulty guardrails to correct an installation issue, not just maintain the guardrails (even though regular maintenance is critical).

As highway officials study crashes on America’s roadways, they learn more about which guardrails protect drivers best during impact. Some guardrails perform better than others in low-angle crashes (seen in common road accidents). Older guardrails required different crash standards, so repair personnel have to replace aging structures over time.

 

To learn more about street sweeping, roadway maintenance, and guardrail repair, regularly check out our helpful blog posts!