Cleaning more than just the streets

  • Published
  • By Amy Tharp
  • 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron

Airmen in the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron's horizontal shop operate street sweepers on a daily basis. You might think that what they are doing is only for aesthetics or base beautification. It does improve base appearance, but there's a lot more to it than just that.

An equally important, but less visible benefit is the removal of a significant source of pollution. When the street sweepers remove trash, sediment build-up and debris from roads and curb gutters they are also removing and preventing it from getting into our creeks, rivers, jurisdictional wetlands and Santa Rosa Sound.

Fine particles and pollutants from run-on, atmospheric deposition, vehicle emissions, breakup of street surface materials, and littering can accumulate along streets and curbs in between rainfall events. This also results in accumulation of pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, trace metals, hydrocarbons, bacteria, pesticides, trash and other toxic chemicals. Although sometimes invisible, these pollutants can be extremely harmful to fish and other wildlife if they reach water bodies.

Street sweeping is not only effective at removing microscopic pollutants that collect on our streets and parking lots, it's also an effective method of removing larger debris that can block storm water facilities, causing localized flooding during heavy rains. Removing the debris before it accumulates within storm catch basins also helps minimize the amount of storm system maintenance required to keep storm conveyances clean and open.

As it's such an important factor in preventing pollution, tracking of street sweeping activity, amount of debris collected, and documenting proper handling and disposal of the debris is a requirement of a base-wide storm water permit. Hurlburt Field's 1st SOCES' horizontal shop not only meets that regulatory requirement and keeps the base beautiful, but they also play a huge part in preventing pollution. Last year they recorded sweeping 369 miles of streets and removed approximately 100 cubic yards of debris keeping the associated pollution out of our protected waterways.