Many Florida roads have curbs, which makes curbs easy to ignore and forget. But curbs are commonplace for a reason: they play a big role in controlling stormwater runoff and keeping pollutants out of the water supply. Read the information below to gain a new appreciation for curbs and their contributions to stormwater systems.
History of Curbs
The purpose of curbs becomes clearer in light of their origins and history. Developed cities had roads before they had curbs. Those roads were more permeable than today’s pavement, so rainwater and other runoff could soak into the soil below rather than accumulate on hard surfaces and cause floods. The soil also filtered out most pollutants before they reached general water supplies.
During the Industrial Revolution many people moved to cities, a situation that led to more waste and more pollution. Unfortunately, people often disposed of those contaminants directly into the streets. The waste built up, polluted the water supply, and led to public health problems.
Eventually, engineers discovered that adding curbs to roadways was one way to control this problem. Hard curbs kept dirty water from entering clean areas, like the sidewalks above or the water supply below.
Curbs, Part of Florida’s Municipal Storm Sewer System
We can’t rely on curbs alone to keep pollutants out of stormwater runoff. Instead, curbs work with other components, like gutters, to control and contain stormwater.
For example, Florida has an extensive network of storm sewers. These municipal storm sewer systems are called MS4s for short. MS4s include all publicly owned stormwater management components, such as curbs, roads, gutters, swales, and ditches.
What role do curbs play in MS4s? They guide surface water into gutters, where it stays separate from natural water supplies. It’s important to contain surface water because it often picks up contaminants when it flows across lawns or roads. Common contaminants include trash, motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and pet waste, all of which can pollute the water supply and harm the environment.
Helping Curbs Do Their Job
As stated above, curbs are only part of Florida’s efforts to control stormwater runoff and reduce pollution. Curbs and gutters can hold polluted water in designated areas, but regular street sweeping can keep litter and other contaminants from ever reaching the water supply. That’s why many Florida cities invest in street sweeping as well as regular curb and gutter system upkeep.
To learn more about street sweeping and other important efforts to control stormwater, contact USA Services at 800-226-3200. As your street sweeping and roadway maintenance firm, we’ve served Florida since 1989.