With the leaves beginning to change colors and flutter to the ground, it won't be long before Ocean County residents are raking them up.
When you do, however, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders is asking that residents not simply dump their leaves in the streets, where they eventually wind up in storm drains.
"Please be civic-minded and pay attention to the catch basins," Freeholder James Lacey said. Keeping them clear of leaves will reduce or prevent street flooding in heavy rains.
The county has roughly 10,000 storm sewers along the roads it is responsible for, Lacey said, and the county roads department -- to which Lacey is the liaison -- has two crews of seven employees each (14 people total) dedicated to cleaning and maintaining the basins.
"We try to clean each basin once a year," said Thomas Curcio, the roads supervisor.
"We could probably get twice as many cleaned if we didn't have all the red tape," Freeholder John C. Bartlett said.
When the county's vacuum trucks suck the sand and debris out of a storm drain, it has to be screened, sorted recorded, tested for pollutants, and dried before it can be discarded -- it cannot just be dumped in a landfill, Bartlett said.
Because the rules are so stringent, many municipalities have simply stopped cleaning the drains, Bartlett said. "So whatever's in there is going into the Toms River anyway," he said.
In the end, the fewer the leaves in the sewers, the less debris for the trucks to have to clean out, Lacey said.