Nutrient and Sediment Load Reduction Estimates from Intensive Street Cleaning and Leaf Litter Removal Practices in Vermont

Science Center Objects

Urban stormwater runoff contains high phosphorus concentrations that contribute to the eutrophication to receiving waters. Recent studies have further shown that leaf fall management presents an opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of common municipal practices such as street cleaning and leaf litter removal and substantially nutrient loading.

Leaf litter on paved and developed surfaces can contribute as much as 70 to 80 percent of the total phosphorus load to urban waters during non-winter periods. Adjusting the frequency and timing of street cleaning and other leaf removal activities may provide municipalities a cost-effective way to achieve federally mandated nutrient and sediment load reductions and improve the quality of receiving waters.

The USGS, in cooperation with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC), the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the City of South Burlington, the University of Vermont, and a coalition of eight other Vermont municipalities are evaluating the potential reductions in nutrient and sediment loads through analysis of the source areas and land-use types, physical and chemical analysis of municipal solids, and using these data to develop a numerical model examining load reductions using street cleaning and leaf removal programs.

Study Objectives

  1. Create database of existing information: (i) physical and chemical data of municipal solids; (ii) current municipal stormwater control measures and their operation and maintenance schedules; (iii) Geographic Information System coverages of land-use types within the study area; and (iv) precipitation, streamflow, and water-quality data for receiving waters in the study area.
  2. Collect monthly samples of municipal solids to create seasonal composite samples of materials available for washoff from paved surfaces.
  3. Develop Source Loading and Management Model representing targeted land-use distributions and the types and frequency of street cleaning and leaf removal programs.