Village stresses impact of yard waste on stormwater systems

Managing leaves one way to protect county’s waterways, prevent flooding

Fall is known for its chilly weather and colorful leaves, but the village of Westmont is also reminding residents of the importance of yard cleanup during this time of year.

DuPage County sits in a watershed, meaning most everything entering storm drains eventually runs into rivers or streams. In autumn, leaves can be blown or swept into storm drains and waterways and can become a source of water pollution. Once they reach waterways, leaves decompose and release phosphorus into the water, which can result in algae blooms and decreased oxygen for fish.

However, pollutants are not the only problem. Leaves can also build up along curbs, gutters and storm drains, which blocks stormwater runoff from entering drainage infrastructure. If a major weather event occurs, this can lead to localized flooding.

DuPage County residents can help to keep excess leaves out of storm sewers and waterways by engaging in a number of activities.

One way for residents to help is by starting a compost pile or add leaves to an existing one. While the organic debris is not ideal for aquatic life, composted leaves and other organic materials are an excellent resource for fertilizing your garden in the summer months. It provides necessary nutrients, while also reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Leaves can be chopped into small pieces using a mulching mower, which will decompose directly on lawns. The leaf pieces can also be collected and spread around flowerbeds and shrubs as mulch.

If recycling leaves in-house is not an option, residents may also bring leaves to DuPage Yard Waste, 1195 W. Washington St., West Chicago, for a fee. To transport, collect leaves in a secure and properly sealed paper bag to ensure they do not blow into storm sewers or streams.

Residents may also contact their local municipality or waste hauler for information on leaf removal services.

Before fall turns into winter, residents should also be mindful of snow removal options. Traditional methods include utilizing road salts to melt snow from roads and driveways. However, chloride from road salts never fully dissipates when excess salt drains into rivers and causes harm to aquatic life.

Removing snow prior to applying a deicer, applying “just enough” to reduce hazard, and sweeping up and properly storing undissolved road salt after a storm for reuse are all ways to reduce the levels of chloride in DuPage waterways this winter. Alternative treatments applied before storms, such as a beet juice derivative, are also effective in reducing ice, while decreasing the need for road salt.

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