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Keep your storm drains clear

The storm drains on your street are meant for collecting water. But this time of year they tend to collect more leaves than anything else.

The storm drains on your street are meant for collecting water. But this time of year they tend to collect more leaves than anything else.

"If you dig down in here you begin to see the beginnings of decay," says Great River Greening Ecologist Steve Huckett. "And by that I mean it starts to turn black and gets all gooey and ucky. Because these dead leaves are full of nitrogen and phosphorous. All that nutrient then goes into the water system. Both into the rivers and the lakes around here."

In many cases, there's no filter between the drain and the lake. That influx of leaf decay means fish kills, algae blooms, and even discolored drinking water for some.

It's a big problem and one of the main contributors to water quality. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says nearly half of our metro lakes in the Mississippi River watershed don't meet water quality standards.

So what can you do about it?

Whether you're in the city, the suburbs or a more rural area, there's one solution.

"The best thing residents can do and people in the city can do is to rake up these leaves and get them off the street," Huckett says. "Put them in a compost pile in their backyard. You could put all this in your garden and till it in. It would be decomposed and ready for planting next spring."

Or add it to the bags of leaves headed for the city compost site.