Street Sweeping Benefits Apopka Streets and the Environment

Think twice the next time you see Jose Posadas cruising the streets.

The City of Apopka maintenance worker drives a street sweeper – a mechanical mammoth that prowls around at a typical speed of only 4 mph. His job is vital to help clean neighborhoods and roads. But Posadas also helps to protect the environment by keeping leaves, dirt and all sorts of roadway pollution out of the municipal storm water system.

In fact, Apopka swept 2,900 miles of roads last fiscal year to remove 466 tons of waste. The work picked up lots of debris and potentially removed an estimated 417 pounds of total phosphorus and 525 pounds of total nitrogen – all that could have a bad impact in retention ponds and lakes.

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“It is good to know you help the environment,” Posadas said.

Apopka is working with the University of Florida to study the effectiveness of street sweeping on storm water runoff. Researchers are monitoring seven sites in the city with devices in some storm drains that collect samples of runoff. Areas include City Hall around U.S. Highway 441 and Park Avenue, U.S. 441 and State Road 436, Oak Hill Reserve, Lake Doe Reserve, Maude Helen, Errol Estates and Piedmont Lakes.

Researchers also coordinate with the city to collect samples once a month when the street sweeper cleans those areas.

“Street sweeping is an important tool to help mitigate the negative consequences from leaf and road debris in degrading our water resources,” said Dr. Brian Pearson at the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The study, which began last year, should wrap up by June 30.

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Last year, Apopka purchased a new street sweeper that runs on compressed natural gas rather than diesel fuel. That also helps the environment – natural gas vehicles on average reduce harmful carbon dioxide in the air by up to 30 percent and toxic emissions by up to 90 percent.

Altogether, Apopka has 25 natural gas vehicles. The city started using the cleaner alternative fuel in 2011, when it added natural gas pumps to a gasoline and diesel fueling site at East Eighth Street and South Highland Avenue. Apopka created the pumps with a $125,000 federal grant and equipment purchased from the LYNX regional bus service in Orlando.

Apopka invested $1.2 million to expand the natural gas site to four pumps with an emergency back-up generator. Two new compressors allow for fast fill-ups comparable to the time required for gasoline or diesel vehicles. Natural gas is purchased from the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District.

“As Apopka continues to grow, we have a responsibility to protect the environment and to ensure that our green space and water resources are kept clean,” said Apopka City Commissioner Diane Velazquez.

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