The Bureau of Highways is responsible for unclogging storms drains within the County right-of-way. As the leaves fall, Howard County’s Department of Public Works is asking residents for help in keeping our storm drains clear of debris. This will not only help in preventing clogs, it will also aid in protecting local waterways.
“Residents can help protect their property and the Chesapeake Bay by keeping leaves and other yard debris out of our roadways,” said Jim Irvin, Director of the Department of Public Works. “They can clog a storm drain. That can cause a road to flood during heavy rain. When leaves and yard debris decompose, that causes nutrients to leech into our waterways, which causes algae and can kill fish and other marine life.”
While Howard County crews work hard to maintain storm drains along 1,000 miles of County owned roadways, there are some simple approaches residents can take to help keep our storm drains free of debris:
- Rake and collect your leaves in paper bags or reusable containers for yard trim curbside collection. If you do not know if you receive or for yard trim curbside collection day, visit https://data.howardcountymd.gov/DataExplorer/Search.aspx?Application=TrashRecycling. For more information on yard trim curbside collection, visit the County Yard Trim page.
- Mulch your leaves with your mower; they can help nourish your lawn.
- Mix your leaves with grass clippings and vegetable refuse to make compost. To learn more about backyard composting, visit the County Composting page.
- Participate in the Rake-and-Take program where “rakers” (residents who rake and bag leaves and grass) are matched with “takers” (people who want leaves and grass for composting). For more information about this program, visit http://extension.umd.edu/mg/locations/rake-and-take.
- When rain is in the forecast, check nearby storm drain grates and clear them of debris.
The Bureau of Highways street sweepers are not designed to pick up leaves. In fact, large quantities of leaves will clog sweeper filters and spread leaves over a large area. As a result, sweeper operators will avoid areas of curb containing an excessive number of leaves. For more information on the street sweeping program, visit the County Street Sweeping page or contact the Bureau at 410-313-7450.
Stormwater runs off our rooftops, driveways, parking lots and streets, picking up harmful chemicals and pollution along the way. The water finds its way to the nearest storm drain and then goes directly into a local stream - not to a water treatment plant. Stenciling storm drains can help raise awareness about the runoff connection to our local rivers and help keep pollution out of our streams, rivers and the Bay. The County is encouraging residents to be a part of the solution: Stencil storm drains and let people know that there should be “Only Rain Down the Drain.” Help keep our water bodies clean by preventing pollution through storm drains.
You will need to get permission to stencil from the Howard County Bureau of Highways and the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability. Find the application here. If there is a Home Owners Association (HOA) in your neighborhood, the Bureau of Highways also asks that you get a permission letter from them. Getting permission from your HOA is also a great way to increase the impact of your stenciling project—the more people know why you are doing it, the more effective it will be! The Bureau Highways will check the storm drain location and ownership and let you know if it’s alright to stencil.
Directions and helpful hints can be found on the Storm Drain Stenciling Flier.