Hampton Roads is turning red, orange and yellow with Mother Nature’s annual autumn makeover. Lovely to look at as they drift from the trees, leaves that are left to accumulate on the ground can have negative effects on the health of Hampton Roads waterways. Street and yard flooding, litter “dams” and algae growth can occur when leaves block or enter the storm drain. To keep “autumn’s gold” from becoming a nuisance, the message from askHRgreen.org is clear: Keep leaves and yard debris out of storm drains.
“There are simple strategies everyone can take to keep fallen leaves from causing problems in our communities,” said Julia B. Hillegass, askHRgreen.org team leader. “Follow your locality’s leaf removal schedule and never rake or blow leaves into the street or storm drain.”
Here’s what happens when fallen leaves find their way into storm drains:
• Leaves and litter mix and stick together at the mouth of storm drains and ditches, forming litter “dams” that collect even more debris.
• Litter dams clog up the storm drains and ditches causing street flooding (even with light or moderate rainfall).
• Leaves that enter the storm drain will begin to decay and release nutrients that aid excess algae growth in local waterways.
• Fish and crabs are left without the proper habitat needed to live as excess algae use up dissolved oxygen and block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses.
“The purpose of the storm drain is to help rain water and melted snow move quickly away from our homes and streets, not to collect leaves, trash and other pollutants,” said Hillegass. “So be a good neighbor, and keep leaves and debris out of storm drains to prevent flooding and water pollution.”
Good to Do:
• Do not rake or blow leaves and yard debris into streets, storm drains, ditches or waterways.
• Mow leaves into your lawn as a simple way to dispose of leaves while fertilizing for your lawn.
• Consider using leaves as an alternative for mulch in your flowerbeds.
• Check with your locality to learn when leaves will be collected and how they should be stored (bagging, placement, etc.).
• Only place leaves and yard debris out during the designated pickup time.
• Clean up leaves that find their way into ditches.
• If you choose to compost your leaves, contain your compost in a bin.