If you consider the function of footpath and street sweeping you probably think it’s all about keeping the streets looking good and safe in terms of removing waste and debris. However it actually plays a more important role in regards to the environment and our health.
Debris collected by street sweepers includes sediment, rubbish, metals, petroleum products and green waste. Regular street sweeping reduces the likelihood of any of these pollutants entering our storm water systems. By keeping the gutters and drains clear this also reduces the chances of flooding in the event of heavy rain.
Green waste is made up of biodegradable waste such as grass clippings, hedge trimmings and leaves. This type of waste is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and can be detrimental to the environment if too much is allowed to enter the storm water system. While nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for the growth of all living organisms, excess levels result in algae growing faster than our ecosystems are able to handle (known as algal blooms).
Algal blooms affect the water quality, food chain and habitats for fish and other aquatic organisms. Decaying algae can decrease the oxygen levels in the water which are also essential for marine life. If humans come in contact with the contaminated water (by swimming, drinking water or more commonly consuming tainted fish/shell fish) the toxins can make us quite sick and in some cases can be fatal.
While algal blooms and street sweeping may have seemed an unlikely connection to begin with, it’s interesting to see how things can sometimes start off a domino effect. It’s worth keeping in the back of your mind how activities like this may be impacting on the environment.
Our Property Services division has been in the industrial sweeping business for over 25 years working with both local governments and private companies. If you would like more information on the benefits street sweeping please do not hesitate to contact us today.
Sources: environment.gov.au – Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) and water quality publication Nov 2012