Beaufort: Protect drainage systems, don’t blow debris onto city streets

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After earning a better flood insurance rating for its upgraded drainage and stormwater management system, City of Beaufort officials are urging residents, landscapers and yard crews to help keep leaves and yard debris off the roads.

Leaves blown into the street can cover and clog drainage grates and pipes. They also can damage the city’s street sweeper, which isn’t designed to sweep up heavy loads of leaves or other yard debris, Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said.

“We need everyone’s help on this,” he said. “Blowing leaves onto the street seems like a simple solution to cleaning up your yard, but it creates major problems now and in the future. The city team worked hard to upgrade our drainage system to get better flood insurance rates for residents and businesses. We need everyone’s help to maintain the drainage system.”

Within the city limits, it’s against the law to damage or obstruct any ditch, drain or watercourse, with fines of twice the damage done. It’s also illegal to put any debris in ditches along roads or property boundaries that drain land in any direction.

If flooding occurs elsewhere on someone else’s property because of debris you placed in the ditch or drain, you can be held liable for damages, said Isiah Smalls, Beaufort’s Director of Public Works.

“The situation ranges from someone cutting their yard and blowing the grass clippings once every few months onto the street to landscapers and yard crews doing it every week,” Smalls said. “We will be contacting the companies that do yard work within the city to share our concerns and I’m confident we’ll get good cooperation.”

According to Smalls, problems include:

• Leaves cover drainage grates preventing rain water from getting into the drainage system which causes surface flooding. This impacts traffic and can cause serious ponding;

• If the system has drop-in inlets and the debris goes directly into the drainage system, it can accumulate, compact, and clog the system internally;

• Dirt, contaminants and other debris deposited in the drainage system impacts water quality in the headwaters of our rivers and estuaries, which can in turn affect shrimp, oysters and other marine life;

• The street sweeper is designed for collecting “normal” leaves and debris deposited naturally by trees.  Unusual volume of debris placed in the street causes mechanical issues for the sweeper which can damage the sweeper;

• The extra debris also causes extra sweeper passes which slows down the sweeper operation citywide;

• Leaves and yard debris must be bagged and placed at roadside for city collection.

Beyond the challenges of excess leaves and debris being blown or placed on roadways, the city’s complex drainage systems can be affected by dumping of debris. Debris placed in ditches and culverts clog them, impede drainage and can cause widespread flooding which can result in property damage.

Also, debris placed in ditches and culverts results in more trash and debris in headwaters and marshes, Smalls said. It is a violation of both Beaufort and state laws to put debris in ditches and culverts. The fine in Beaufort for illegal dumping is $1,087.