Fall is definitely here. I love the crispness of the air, the cerulean blue of the sky and the crunch of leaves underfoot. It’s wonderful to watch as the leaves transition to their fall wardrobe of yellows, reds and orange. I feel bad for people who live in places where they don’t get to experience this beautiful phenomenon.
The downside to having the leaves change color and fall is that we have to pick them up, at least that’s the expectation if you live in the city. In years past it was common practice to sweep them into the street and even burn them there. Then they get washed away right? But where is “away”. Well, for the leaves in the streets it’s most likely the storm drain at the end of the street and that most often goes directly to a river or lake. This stormwater does not get treated at the wastewater treatment plant. The leaves get crunched up and dissolved into a nutrient rich soup of sorts that adds lots of phosphorus to the rivers and lakes. That phosphorus is the favorite food of the algae that creates the green slime on the water. How much phosphorus could there be? In 5 garbage size bags of leaves there is roughly 1 pound of phosphorus which can turn into 1000 pounds of algae! That’s a lot of green slime.
Luckily it’s a problem with an easy solution. Instead of raking or blowing your leaves into the street bag them and take them to the city compost site or compost them in your yard. Spread them on gardens or mulch them with a mower onto your lawn for a no cost fertilizer. If you’re really ambitious you might even want to clean out the storm drain on your street. Doing this on one yard or street probably won’t make a noticeable difference but collective action can. Do your bit for a cleaner river or lake today!