Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Snow Delays Leaf Collection Until 25th

Snow storms extend cutoff. You now have 11 more days to sweep leaves into the street.

By - Nov 13th, 2019 03:20 pm
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A leaf pile on S. Lenox St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A leaf pile on S. Lenox St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Monday’s snow storm has done more than delay commutes and put a strain on 2019 plowing budgets. It’s also delayed curbside leaf pickup in Milwaukee.

With the snow expected to melt in the coming weeks, Milwaukee residents have until the end of the day on November 24th to sweep leaves into the parking lane for Department of Public Works (DPW) pickup.

“We’re battling trees still losing their leaves with snow fall that we normally wouldn’t see until December,” said DPW Commissioner Jeff Polenske on Wednesday morning at a meeting of the Common Council’s Public Works Committee.

He said the early snow isn’t unheard of, but it’s having an impact on DPW operations.

“We have extended the rakeout date,” said Polenske. “We are extending that to Sunday the 24th and then after that it takes us a couple weeks to clean up the leaf piles on the streets.”

Alderman Robert Bauman asked if the city would be handing out tickets to people that did so after the fact.

“If we haven’t been there yet, that’s fine,” said Polenske. “The problem is we don’t want to have new piles appear” after a street has been cleaned, he explained. The latter is legally considered littering.

“I’ll talk to my tree to accelerate its leaf dropping because I have one tree that has all its leaves,” said Bauman. Polenske laughed and said he did too, which is part of why they’re extending the date. Numerous photos circulated on social media this week of snow falling atop trees with green leaves.

But why collect all those leaves in the first place?

DPW sanitation services manager Rick Meyers said there is a public health benefit. “The primary reason is for water quality,” said Meyers. He told the committee it keeps phosphorus and other heavy nutrient loads out of the water system. It also keeps them out of the sewer system, a fact pointed out by multiple committee members.

Leaves should be raked into piles one foot from the curb. Meyers said much of the collection at this point isn’t done with equipment that is temperature sensitive, like street sweepers that spray water, and could continue as temperatures drop.

Ald. Cavalier Johnson asked why the city doesn’t pick up the leaves with vacuum equipment like some municipalities do. Meyers said the city does use such equipment, particularly in areas where leaves are in ditches or there is no curb, but dump trucks and large shovels are used for their higher capacity.

The city mulches all of the leaves it collects and turns them into compost.

With any luck the city won’t have to further amend the plan because of more snow.

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