Grass Clippings Concern for Environment, Your Wallet - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Grass Clippings Concern for Environment, Your Wallet

Updated:

If you're thinking about lawn maintenance this weekend, we have a warning for you. Cutting your grass and leaving the clippings in the street is not only bad for the environment, it's bad for your wallet as well.

The problem starts with storm drains. While it's not a problem for a grass clipping or two to make its way through the storm drain, a big clump can have a big impact, not only clogging the storm sewer, but changing the water quality as it works its way through.

Driving around, we found bags of grass clippings in Gene Hamma's driveway. Every four days, the Davenport homeowner mows his lawn and bags up what's left. Hamma says, "I don't like to leave them laying in the grass. So I pick them up and put them in my bags, and I use them for compost for myself and my brother."

That's what Davenport's Natural Resources Manager would like all homeowners to do. Brian Stineman says, too often he sees clippings swept into the street. "They'll block up the catch basin, so the storm water can't get into them. So it bypasses, so we'll get more localized street flooding because basins are plugged, it can't get into the drains."

And when the grass decays, whether it's coming through the storm sewer or from the side of a creek, it releases phosphorous and nitrogen into the water. That causes algae to bloom.

"Do you see those mats, private ponds that have those big thick mats of algae?" Stineman asks. "The problem with that is once that dies and goes to the bottom , it uses up all the oxygen. And that creates carbon dioxide, and that's what kills all the fish and the aquatic animals."

What he says could also force Iowa American to re-balance oxygen levels in our drinking water. "And it can start with something as simple as blowing your grass clippings into the street," Stineman says.

It's a message homeowner Linda Barchman takes to heart. She says she doesn't see too much of a problem on the streets in her Crystal Creek subdivision, but she has seen an impact on the creek itself. "I just wish more people would take care of the creek because it all goes into the Mississippi and it's a lot of cost of keeping our water clean."

And grass clippings could cost you as well. Different cities have different ordinances and different fee schedules. In Davenport, the first time crews have to come clean your street, you'll probably get a warning. Repeat offenders could pay up to 250 dollars.

City leaders we talked to across the area stress that they have special yard waste pick-up programs.  Many times they are free. And there are places to drop off your grass and leaves year round.