Grass clippings can be trouble

By David J. Coehrs -

It’s the same every mowing season: Grass cutters spray the clippings into the street without a thought of the consequences.

“People just don’t get it. They don’t understand the problems it can cause down the road,” Wauseon Police Chief Keith Torbet said.

As the constant drone of lawn mowers is heard up and down city streets, Torbet has one request: clean your grass off the street before it ultimately causes damage and costs both the city and its residents.

In fact, cleaning up the clippings is the law in many areas. In Wauseon, Statute 521.12, titled “Weeds and Grass,” passed May 17, 2004, states: “Disposal of Grass Clippings and Cut and Dead Vegetation. No person shall do any of the following: (1) Cause the accumulation of grass clippings or other cut and dead vegetation in such a manner that the accumulation creates noxious odors or an environment for vermin; (2) Allow grass clippings to accumulate on any public street surface or alley.”

Problems occur when the clippings are washed into sewers during rainstorms, Torbet said. “The more it gets down there, it starts clumping up and it blocks the drain. It also clogs the tops of drains, causing flooding. When people’s basements get flooded because the pipes are backed up, it could be because your neighbor’s blowing grass clippings into the street.”

Several years ago, a section of pipe under Fairway Drive became so clotted with grass clippings it had to be replaced, he said.

And while Torbet has never seen a vehicle accident caused by slippery grass clippings on the street, he emphasized that it’s a possibility. “It can be problematic if it does get wet,” he added.

The city’s police have never cited anyone for placing grass clippings in the street but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Torbet said guilty residents are asked to clean up the mess, but “if you’re not going to follow the law you’re going to get a little piece of paper.”

The practice is also prohitibited in Swanton. Section 93.05 of the Codified Ordinances states, “No person shall sweep into or deposit in any gutter, street or other public place within the village the accumulation of litter from any building or lot or from any public or private sidewalk or driveway.”

Yard clippings is part of the definition of rubbish which is included in the definition of litter.

Standing water in the streets has already been an issue in Delta this spring as sewers become clogged. Police Chief Nathan Hartsock said grass clippings blown into the street are a big contributor.

He said the department will place a reminder to residents on its Facebook page. A village ordinance prohibiting accumlulations and deposits states: “No person shall place, throw, deposit or sweep into or upon any street…any junk, garbage, refuse or any other matter of an unsightly or unsanitary nature…” Grass clippings are included under the “refuse” category.

And while the sewers are a concern, Hartsock also worries about the dangers grass clippings pose for motorists. U.S. 20 Alternate enters into the village with a 50 mile per hour speed limit.

“It’s a huge safety issue for motorcycles,” he said. “Absolutely, it can happen.”

When on patrol, Delta police officers will stop and educate mowers on the problems grass clippings cause. “Most people will abide by what we tell them because they just don’t know,” he said.

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.