Let the rain drain

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published July 6, 2015

 Grass clippings, dirt and trash clog a storm sewer catch basin. Clogged catch basins can cause flooding and damage to the roads.

Grass clippings, dirt and trash clog a storm sewer catch basin. Clogged catch basins can cause flooding and damage to the roads.

Photo provided by the Road Commission for Oakland County


OAKLAND COUNTY —  To prevent storm sewer catch basins and roadside ditches from clogging, officials are reminding residents, businesses and mowing contractors to keep grass and tree debris out of the roadways and ditches.

Catch basins and roadside ditches provide stormwater drainage, but when they become plugged, the debris can cause the roads to flood. Water can have an impact on the condition of the roads and cause premature deterioration, said Craig Bryson, Road Commission for Oakland County public information officer.

Bryson said that with the amount of rain the region has had this year, clogged catch basins and roadside ditches have been a constant issue.

When contractors or residents throw grass clippings in the road, the clippings end up in the storm sewer catch basins, which causes flooding and increases the amount of work for Road Commission employees.

Bryson said it costs “maybe a couple thousand dollars” to clean out a single catch basin, and time is just as important as the direct cost because staff members are taken away from other necessary jobs, like patching potholes, he said. Since 2007, the Road Commission staff has been reduced by 35 percent, he noted.

In addition to catch basins, Bryson said ditches can become clogged from residents dumping grass clippings in them.

“It clogs the culverts on the driveways and under roads and again causes flooding and water to back up,” Bryson said. “(It) causes us to spend scarce resources to clean out those ditches and culverts.”

On occassion, Road Commission workers do come across trash in the catch basins and ditches, but one of the reasons, Bryson said, is that the Road Commission has had to cut back on litter pickup along the roadways.

“That’s been reduced significantly over the last five to seven years. We rely on people to help us out to clean out the garbage on their streets and ditches as they can,” Bryson said.

In Macomb County, Bob Hoepfner, director of the Macomb County Department of Roads, said he has not heard of debris being a big problem.

While he agreed that grass clippings and tree debris should be kept out of ditches, “we’re taking no direct action.”

The proper place for residents to put yard debris, he said, is in a yard waste bin or a properly maintained compost pile.

“Virtually all the waste management firms that serve the community have the bins for yard waste, and that’s how yard waste should be disposed of,” he said.

He also recommended using a mulching lawn mower because it cuts down on yard waste and is good for the lawn.

Bryson agreed, stating that in lieu of putting debris in the roadway or the ditch, residents and mowing contractors should either mulch the grass clippings and leave them on the lawn or pick them up and dispose of them in yard waste bags. After a storm, tree branches should be picked up to prevent them from going into the ditches, as well.


“It’s a small thing people can do, but it’s an important thing. It may not seem important at the time, but it has a big impact on the quality of roads and people’s lives when we can prevent flooding,” Bryson said.