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Corvallis Leaf Cleanup Campaign

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CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Public Works Department says leaves can become a source of water pollution, and it is asking residents not to place leaves in the streets.

The vibrant fall colors are appearing everywhere throughout the Willamette Valley. But as those leaves fall, they start turning brown, and yard-owners are starting to get rid of them.

“What we’re asking is that folks don’t put the leaves in the street if at all possible,” said City of Corvallis Public Works Director Mary Steckel.

Steckel says leaves in the street cause various problems.

“If the leaves are piling up in the street and they block water trying to get to a catch basin, or they actually block a catch basin, then we have localized flooding in the street,” Steckel said.

She says leaves pose as a hazard for bicyclists, and can block water from running down to drains, causing roadway flooding. Not to mention, what goes on the street might end up in local water streams.

“When you put the leaves in the street, and then it rains, the leaves get washed to a catch basin,” Steckel said. “They go through the catch basin into the storm system, and then they get discharged into a waterway.”

Steckel says trees along rivers will already shed leaves into the water, but the Public Works Department wants to minimize the number of additional leaves that enter the water streams.

“When the leaves get into our local water streams, either our local urban streams or the Willamette River, and they start to decompose, they do release nutrients that basically encourage algae growth.”

She says not only does algae block fish from passing through as easily, but it sucks oxygen out of the water.

“If you’re on a street that has some localized flooding, and you happen to know there might be a catch basin under some leaves, you should feel free to take a rake and rake the leaves off to the side, and let the water flow through and drain out,” Steckel said.

The City has organized weekly leaf-pile pickups on the same day as garbage pickups. But Public Works says it would rather that folks put their leaves in their yard debris bins that the City also collects. The department also recommends placing leaves in compost piles, or mowing the leaves to produce a mulch to provide nutrients to lawns and flower beds.

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