Hopefully most people are aware of the dangers of pouring oil, pesticides and other products into our storm drains or dumping them into our rivers. Now that leaf raking season is fast approaching, remember storm drains and rivers are no place for leaves either.
Some people may think that leaves are from nature, so it can’t hurt the environment if they washed into the storm drain or if they are left along the river banks – right? Wrong. Many leaves will naturally fall into the water, but we should never put the leaves that fall on our lawn in a creek, river or stream. Excessive decaying leaves use up the water’s oxygen, harming the animals that live in the water.
Storm drains are designed to take away water runoff. They collect excess water from rain events and move the untreated water into waterways such as the Shiawassee, Maple and Looking Glass Rivers. When leaves and yard waste collect in the drain system, they block pipes, resulting in the flooding of our roads, waterways and private property. When the storm water runoff does empty into a waterway, the high levels of nutrients released by the yard waste is harmful to aquatic life. In addition, any excess chemicals and fertilizers that are used on lawns get raked up with the leaves and end up in our rivers and streams.
When leaves and other lawn waste is left on river banks, they smother the vegetation that prevents erosion by holding the soil in place. Once the vegetation is gone, the soil will erode into the river causing even more environmental concerns. Also, it just doesn’t look nice to have leaves piled along the bank, or a bare spot of eroding soil.
Leaves can be mulched by running over them with your lawn mower. Leaves and grass clippings are great fertilizer for your lawn or they can be raked into a compost pile for a nutrient-rich fertilizer to use in your garden next spring. Some communities have a drop-off site that you can haul your leaves to or have curbside pickup. If you are asked to put the leaves in the street, wait until just before collection day to do so.
What may seem like a small thing, like keeping your lawn waste out of our rivers and streams, adds up to a big thing when others do the same! Do your part to protect our waterways this fall. Contact the Shiawassee Conservation District for more information on ways to protect our water quality.