Storm drains are no place for autumn leaves

You are hopefully well-aware of the dangers of pouring oil, pesticides and other products into our storm drains, but now that fall is here, remember: Stormwater drains are no place for leaves, either.

It might seem harmless enough to take the leaf blower and send that pile of leaves into the storm drain – after all, the drain is right there, the leaves are just going to decompose, and the water will be treated anyway, right? You’d be surprised.

First, stormwater drains are designed to handle runoff, and because of that, they discharge untreated water into waterways. Second, when decomposing yard waste collects in the drain system, it blocks pipes, resulting in flooding that can damage local waterways, not to mention private property. Finally, when the stormwater runoff does empty into a waterway, the high levels of nutrients released by the decomposing yard waste is harmful to ecosystems.

There are lots of other things you can do with your leaves and yard waste. For example, if you’re not using a mulching lawn mower, consider making a switch: Mulching takes care of clippings and leaves, and even returns nutrients into your lawn.

Another way to get rid of leaves is to let the city pick them up. If you live in a municipality within Greenville County, you are probably eligible for yard-waste collection. Remember that each city has its own rules; for example, the city of Greenville prohibits bagged yard waste, asking rather that residents place their leaves on the side of the street.

Finally, you might consider composting leaves. This is a great way to recycle yard waste, and it can also present an opportunity to teach children valuable lessons about protecting the environment. If you decide to compost your leaves, remember to create your compost pile away from wetlands, streams or storm drains.