Why Do Cities Sweep Streets?

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Using street sweepers is more than just for aesthetic purposes.  The food wrappers and cigarette butts are an eye sore, but the sand and salt on the streets are just as much of a nuisance.  In the fall, too many wet leaves on the road or in the curb can be dangerous for cars; making it harder to stop.  In the spring, leftover road salt ends up washed into our river system.  High amounts of chloride in the water can harm or kill plants and fish in our lakes and rivers.  According the the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, it only takes 1 teaspoon of road salt to permanently damage 5 gallons of water.  Once the salt is in the water, there is no way to remove it.
Street sweeping is a very cost-effective water quality BMP.  In St. Cloud, the city sweeps 350 lane miles of streets and alleys and owns 4 machines.  All city streets are swept twice in the spring and once in the fall.  Priority is given to the Sauk River watershed, downtown, the area around the hospital and St. Germain.  In the summer, the city’s sweeping routes include weekly sweeping of all priority areas.  Once the sweeper picks up the materials, it is deposited into a dump truck.  From there materials are screened at the compost site.  Everything that can be recycled or composted is.  The remaining tiny amount is sent to the landfill for disposal.  Annually about 4,000 cubic yards of sediment/debris are removed through the street sweeping program.  It takes about 3,500 staff hours to complete this task each year.  Staff time includes sweeper hours as well as the water truck for flushing medians and pre-wetting for the broom sweeper and the tandem trucks to haul the sediment away.
Recently, the City was award a Clean Water Land and Legacy grant through the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to purchase another sweeper.  The funds will be used to purchase a Tymco 500x regenerative air sweeper.  This sweeper will be used in the 367 acre northeast subwatershed and will go above and beyond the current sweeping schedule.  This sweeper is being purchased with the special purpose of helping to improve water quality.
For more information on this topic contact your city public works department or Noah Czech with the City of St. Cloud at (320) 255-7226

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