Keep Leaves Out of Streets and Ponds

Wherever they fall, leaves decompose and restock the soil with nutrients and organic matter. But when there is no soil to land on—such as on a street or sidewalk—the leaves, and all the decomposing bits, wash down the street and into the storm drain. They go directly into lakes, ponds and rivers where the nutrients will feed unwanted algae growth next summer. Algae is a problem because when it dies and decomposes at the bottom of the lake, it uses up oxygen that fish and native plants need.
Many lakes in the Mississippi River watershed do not meet water quality standards because of excess nutrients. And leaves are a major source of the problem. Depending on the lake, leaves might account for 60% of the excess nutrients in these lakes.

Here’s some things you can do to help keep leaves from harming local fresh water sources:

    • Rake up and remove the leaves that have accumulated along your curb, sidewalk, and alley several times throughout the season. Never rake leaves into the street, even when you know the street sweeper is coming. We want to keep them out of storm drains. 
    • Do not trash or burn your leaves. Adding leaves to your trash is illegal, and burning them contributes to air pollution.
    • Use the leaves to mulch your lawn or garden, or to replenish your compost pile. They will discourage weed growth and add nutrients to your soil, or compost, as they decompose.
  • Dispose of your leaves at a local yard waste drop-off site. Contact your city or county for drop-off site locations, items accepted and any fees involved.

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