Street Sweeper

The Street Sweeper – Our First Line of Defense

The sound of the street sweeper is music to my ears. As the street sweeper drives down the street the sound of the street sweeper vacuum unit reminds me that the sweeper is our first line of defense in preventing debris from entering the storm drain system.  By keeping debris out of our storm drain system, the street sweeper is doing its part to prevent debris from entering our creeks and rivers.

What does a street sweeper collect?

The street sweeper collects all loose material from our streets and gutters. This material may include trash, leaves, dust, nails and screws, oils, particles from brake pads and brake shoes, and debris from worn out asphalt pavement. The street sweeper is also used to collect and remove broken glass and other debris from traffic accidents. In addition, the street sweeper may be used to collect material left behind after a spill. Without a street sweeper, this unwanted material might eventually find its way into the storm drain system and ultimately end up in the receiving creek or river.  In Ukiah alone, the street sweeper collects and disposes of approximately 800 tons of debris on a yearly basis!

How does a street sweeper operate?

The street sweeper is basically a motorized vacuum cleaner. A separate engine powers the gutter brooms which rotate and pull debris from the curb and pavement for easy removal by the vacuum unit. This separate engine powers the high-power vacuum unit pulling the loose debris from the streets. As the sweeping and vacuuming process takes place, water is applied to keep dust from street sweeping at a minimum level.  Occasionally a tree branch will become lodged in the vacuum unit and cause a trail of debris to follow the street sweeper. Upon noticing this, the operator will stop and clear the tree branch from the unit.

What can you do?

As a citizen and good neighbor, it is important for all to do our part. You can help by moving your vehicle(s) from the street before street sweeping day. Please contact your local Department of Public Works to learn the schedule for street sweeping in your neighborhood. Also, do not sweep leaves or place lawn cuttings or other debris onto the street. In Ukiah, as in most jurisdictions, ordinances prohibit depositing debris on the sidewalk, in the gutter, or on the street. Please use your green bin for all leaves and yard waste. If you observe broken glass or other debris on the street, please notify your Department of Public Works.  If you are driving, use caution when overtaking a street sweeper on its route.

Please remember the street sweeper is your friend. It is doing its part to keep our streets clean and tidy and to prevent unwanted debris from entering our creeks and waterways.

This article was authored by Rick Seanor of the City of Ukiah on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.