published Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Leaf season nears; keep storm drains clear, Cleveland officials say

Maurice Parks, operating the lift equipment, and Porky Davis, both of Cleveland Public Works, clear the intersection of 18th Street and Chambliss Avenue on their routine trash and debris pickup circuit  Wednesday. Leaf season pickups start Nov. 1 in Cleveland, Tenn.
Maurice Parks, operating the lift equipment, and Porky Davis, both of Cleveland Public Works, clear the intersection of 18th Street and Chambliss Avenue on their routine trash and debris pickup circuit Wednesday. Leaf season pickups start Nov. 1 in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Randall Higgins.

LEAF COLLECTION

• Put leaves in clear plastic bags.

• If you don't bag, keep the leaf piles at the edge of the property and not in the street.

• Don't fill the ditches with leaves since a rain could flush them into the drains, causing a water backup.

• Burn leaves in the yard, not the ditch

Source: Cleveland, Catoosa County public works departments

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Leaf season is coming so be kind to your neighborhood storm drains.

That's the advice from officials who must deal with drains that are clogged by piles of leaves either raked or blown out of yards during the fall. Such piles often cause water to back up in ditches and drains, creating local floods, including temporary street ponds that can cause traffic problems.

"Then the city comes along and unstops them and suddenly there's a large volume of water," Councilman Richard Banks

The surge can carry leaves, grass clippings and other debris through the system and into steams, threatening fish and other animals that live there.

"They go straight into the streams and fish can't survive," said Jonathan Jobe, director of the Cleveland's development and engineering department.

The problem is not unique to Cleveland. Several other cities and counties in the region say leaf-stuffed drains are a headache, too.

"Huge problem," said Catoosa County Stormwater Director James Davis. "We have a real bad problem with people burning their leaves in ditches. People don't realize it actually stops up the ditches."

The county also has a problem with people raking leaves and branches into ditches, which stops them up.

"There's only one crew for the whole county. They clean ditches all week long," Davis said.

Technically, pushing leaves into the ditch is littering, which could result in a fine from $40 to $1,000, he said.

"That would be a last resort. We try to talk to people," Davis said.

In Dunlap, Tenn., Field Supervisor Clayton Smith said the Sequatchie County seat has an annual battle with leaves, too.

When most Dunlap residents rake their leaves into neat piles near the curb, a good heavy rain is all it takes to wash them into the nearest drain if they're not disposed of in time, he said.

The Cleveland Public Works Department begins its annual leaf season on Nov. 1 and it runs through the end of January. During that time, Director Tommy Myers said, clearing away autumn leaves becomes the primary focus of the department, barring emergencies.

The department will pick up leaves in clear plastic bags any time of year, he said, and clear bags lets city crews know it's not just household garbage.

Staff writers Tim Omarzu and Ben Benton contributed to this story.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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