Street sweepers encounter heavy debris after months of snow

The Cities of Mankato and North Mankato have both pulled out their street sweepers. But what exactly are they picking up?
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 10:30 AM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The City of Mankato has had their street sweepers out for the last couple of weeks. the city of North Mankato pulled theirs out Monday. but what exactly are they picking up?

“The street sweeping is more about a lot of other contaminants and solids that will get into that,” said Luke Arnold, North Mankato’s Director of Public Works. “Those oils and greases and things like that--the sand--all from getting into the river and creating it [and] the river getting cloudy from it.”

On top of that, there’s the usual garden variety of trash and litter on the ground; that, Mankato Public Works Operations Superintendent Joe Grabianowski can attest to.

“[There are] pop bottles pop, cans -- anything like that--Kleenexes,” said Grabianowski. “All that kind of stuff, you know?”

The City of Mankato picks up five to eight tons of material -- once every hour -- which otherwise would have gone right into the Minnesota River.

“It just takes one teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water,” explained Smart Salting Training Administrator, Chandi McCracken-Holm.

As Arnold sees it, residents should know by now the basic etiquette of what to dispose of.

“So, the residents understand what they can and can’t [do],” said Arnold. “And [they know] why they can’t dump motor oil down the street inlet because it ends up right in the water.”

McCracken-Holm stressed the importance of preventing any excess debris from entering the waterway.

“I mean, preventing any of that from getting into our water ways is really important because you know, once it goes down that storm drain it’s going straight into that lake or wetland or stream that it leads to,” said McCracken-Holm. “And those can all have an effect on the aquatic life. Even sand even though that’s an alternative.”

McCracken-Holm said there’s no silver bullet to salt.

“Either reusing it another time, or there’s not really a great way to dispose of it.” said McCracken-Holm. “Maybe just trashing it but not leaving it there to go straight into the waterway.”

There are other ways of mitigating how much salt goes into our ecosystem, like using your own sweeper.