Waste Water Responsibility

This article is part of a regular series from North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA). NAPSA seeks to elevate and inform the sweeping industry through educational articles, business tips, and best practices. This article explains the vital role power sweepers play in decreasing water pollution. For more resources, visit https://www.powersweeping.org/.

Urban stormwater runoff contains a toxic array of pollutants and fine materials that taint our water supplies. With much of the country either emerging from a snow-laden winter or headed into a waterlogged spring, the threat of increased water pollution persists. What responsibility, if any, does the power sweeping community have in preserving or enhancing water quality?

Pollutants – The Problem

Urban stormwater runoff carries heavy metals (e.g., zinc, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that bind onto sediments. Lawn fertilizer, pet waste, and yard clippings contribute decaying solids; large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus can also cause toxic algae blooms that damage the ecosystem. Sediment from fine materials causes clogs and blockages in sewage systems and reduces water depth in retention ponds and drainage basins. All of these issues compromise our clean water and harm our ecosystems.

Costly Consequences

Estimated costs to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from drinking water exceed $4.3B annually. Taxpayers foot the bill to clean up waterways through high municipal water bills and costly bottled and filtered water. For example, in a 2-year period, Ohio spent more than $13 million treating drinking water from a lake affected by algae blooms. Restoration costs for the Great Miami Watershed in Ohio for nitrogen and phosphorus exceeded $2.4 million over three years.

Homeowners also see declines in property value when pollution negatively affects boating and fishing in their area. For example, in 2015 a persistent algae bloom in Ohio cost the state about $47 million in lost local tourism revenue. A bloom on the Maine coast cost $2.5 million in soft shell clam harvests and $460,000 in mussel harvests. New England waterfront property values declined an average of $61,000.
There are also adverse health costs to contaminating waters. Emergency room visits in Florida resulting from adverse health effects of toxic algae blooms cost Sarasota County an estimated $130,000 annually.

Power Sweeper Action

Power sweepers obviously cannot remove all the rainwater that absorbs chemical pollutants. However, they can use equipment that removes gravel, sand, silt, clay, and fine lawn clippings, debris which not only creates blockages but also carries toxic chemicals. The Minnesota Department of Transportation notes that removal of coarse sediment (e.g., gravel and sand) leaves fine sediment (e.g., fine sand and silt) to be washed into storm drains and waterways. Therefore, they recommend deployment of high-efficiency machinery that can remove both coarse and fine sediments.

The cost to clean contaminated water is high, but the power sweeping community offers a relatively low-cost option to help keep waterways clean. By physically removing contaminants before they can pollute waterways, power sweepers are decreasing the need to spend taxpayer money on cleanup. Contractors who use high-efficiency machinery provide a better value that will appeal to government officials, and taxpayers will realize the benefits.


Kansas State University. 17 November, 2008. Freshwater pollution costs US at least $4.3 billion a year. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081112124418.htm

United States Environmental Protection Agency. May 2015. A compilation of cost data associated with the impacts and control of nutrient pollution. US EPA Office of Water. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-04/documents/nutrient-economics-report-2015.pdf