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Parking Lot and Street Cleaning

Minimum Measure: Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations

Subcategory: Municipal Activities

Photo of a 

street sweeper cleans up pollutants and sediments on the street to reduce 

the amount of pollutants entering receiving waters Description

Streets, roads, highways and parking lots accumulate significant amounts of pollutants that contribute to stormwater pollutant runoff to surface waters. Pollutants, including sediment, debris, trash, road salt, and trace metals can be minimized by street sweeping. Street sweeping can also improve the aesthetics of municipal roadways, control dust and decrease the accumulation of pollutants in catch basins. An effective municipal street sweeping program can meet regulatory requirements, assess street sweeping effectiveness, and minimize pollutants in roadways.

Street Sweepers

Municipalities can choose between the three different types of street sweepers (mechanical, regenerative air and vacuum filter) keeping in mind the targeted pollutants, pollutant type (large debris to particles less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10)), types of surfaces, travel distances, noise ordnances, and costs. Municipals often find it useful to have a compliment of each type of street sweeper in their fleet (CASQA, 2003).

Each type of street sweeper has it advantages and disadvantages concerning pollutant removal effectiveness, traveling speed, and noise generated by the street sweeper. With the different types of modern street sweepers capable of removing PM10 particles, price and personal preference are the primary selection criteria for most users (Keating, no date). No definitive independent studies have yet been staged to determine "the best" sweeping system. Anecdotal data has also been inconclusive (Keating, no date).


Street sweeping is practiced in most urban areas, often as an aesthetic practice to remove trash, sediment buildup, and large debris from curb gutters (RIPDES, no date). Effective street sweeping programs can remove several tons of debris a year from city streets minimizing pollutants in stormwater runoff. In colder climates, street sweeping can be used during the spring snowmelt to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff from road salt, sand and grit.


An effective municipal street sweeping program should address at a minimum the following components:

Street Sweeping Schedule: Designing and maintaining a street sweeping schedule can increase the efficiency of a program. A successful program will need to be flexible to accommodate climate conditions and areas of concern. Areas of concern should be based on traffic volume, land use, field observations of sediment and trash accumulation and proximity to surface waters (CASQA, 2003). Street sweeping in these areas may need to be increased and the schedule amended. It is recommended that schedules include minimum street sweeping frequencies of at least once a year. In cold climates prone to snowfall the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection recommends that municipalities conduct street sweeping as soon as possible after the snow melts (McCarthy, 2005). Removal of the accumulated sand, grit, and debris from roads after the snow melts reduces the amount of pollutants entering surface waters.

To evaluate the effectiveness of a street sweeping program, municipalities should maintain accurate logs of the number of curb-miles swept and the amount of waste collected (CASQA, 2003). Monthly or yearly intakes (per ton) can be measured per district, road, season, or mile. This information can be used to develop a written plan, schedule, and periodic re-evaluation for street sweeping that would target the following:

  • those roadways with contributing land uses (high level of imperviousness, high level of industrial activity) that would be expected to show high pollutant concentrations and
  • those roadways that have consistently accumulated proportionately greater amounts of materials (pounds per mile swept) between currently scheduled sweeps (Curtis, 2002).

Gross intake amounts can be presented to regulatory agencies and to finance directors to measure performance. The City of Dana Point, California reported that when sweeping was conducted twice a month, the monthly debris intake was 23 tons. Dana Point then increased street sweeping frequency to a weekly basis and the monthly total increased to between 45 and 80 tons of debris (City of Dana Point, 2011).

Street Sweepings Storage and Disposal: Street sweeping material often includes sand, salt, leaves, and debris removed from roads. Often the collected sweepings contain pollutants and must be tested prior to disposal to determine if the material is hazardous. Municipals should adhere to all federal and state regulations that apply to the disposal and reuse of sweepings.

Municipalities are encouraged to develop comprehensive management plans for the handling of sweepings. A critical aspect of a management plan is selecting a location for storing and processing street sweepings (McCarthy, 2005). Storage locations should be equipped with secondary containment and possibly overhead coverage to prevent stormwater runoff from contacting the piles of sweepings. It is also recommended to cover the piles of sweepings with tarps to prevent the generation of excessive dust. Storage locations should be sized accordingly to completely contain the volume of the disposed sweepings. To estimate the size of the storage location, estimate the volume of sweepings either on a ton-per-street mile or on pounds-per-capita basis (McCarthy, 2005). An average figure for urban areas is 20.25 tons-per street-mile (McCarthy, 2005).

Street Sweepings Reuse Practices: Although sweepings may contain pollutants, federal and state regulations may allow the reuse of sweepings for general fill, parks, road shoulders and other applications as long as the material is not a threat to surface waters. Prior to reuse, trash, leaves, and other debris from sweepings should be removed by screening or other methods (MPCA, 1997). Trash and debris removed should be disposed of by recycling or sent to a landfill (MPCA, 1997).

Parking Policy: Established parking policies increases the effectiveness of a street sweeping program. Parking policies can be established as city ordinance and incorporate the following:

  • Institute a parking policy to restrict parking in problematic areas during periods of street sweeping.
  • Post permanent street sweeping signs in problematic areas; use temporary signs if installation of permanent signs is not possible.
  • Develop and distribute flyers notifying residents of street sweeping schedules (CASQA, 2003).

Operation and Maintenance Program: A municipality should dedicate time for daily and weekly equipment maintenance. Regular maintenance and daily start up inspections insures that street sweepers are kept in good working condition (City of Greeley, 1998). It is vital for municipals to inventory and properly stock parts to prevent downtime and decrease productivity. Old sweepers should be replaced with new technologically- advanced sweepers, preferably modern sweepers that maximize pollutant removal (CASQA, 2003).

Limitations and Cost Considerations

Street sweeping programs are limited by costs. The largest expenditures include staffing and equipment (CASQA, 2003). The capital cost for a conventional street sweeper is between $60,000 and $120,000 with newer technologies approaching $180,000 (CASQA, 2003). Street sweepers have an average life span of 4 years yet more modern street sweepers have been reported to surpass the 4 year average, therefore programs must budget for equipment replacement. The following table shows cost estimates compared to equipment life span and operation and maintenance for two types of sweepers: mechanical and vacuum.

Table 1. Estimated costs for two types of street sweepers

Sweeper Type

Purchase Price ($)

Life (Years)

O&M Cost ($/curb mile)






Finley, 1996

SWRPC, 1991





Finley, 1996

Satterfield, 1991

Cost data for two cities in Michigan provide some guidance on the overall cost of a street cleaning program. Table 2 contains a review of the labor, equipment, and material costs for street cleaning for the year 1995 (Ferguson et al., 1997). The average cost for street cleaning was $68/curb mile and approximately 11 curb miles/day were swept.

Table 2. The cost of street cleaning for two cities in Michigan




Material and Services







Plymouth Township






Street sweeping can be an effective measure in reducing pollutants in stormwater runoff. During the year 2000, the Department of Highway Services and Bethesda Urban Partnership in Montgomery County, Maryland swept approximately 14,373 miles of roadways and removed 2,464 tons of materials (Curtis, 2002). Decreasing the amount of pollutants in roads before they are picked up by stormwater runoff reduces pollutants in surface waters.

Using modern efficient street sweepers may reduce the need for other structural stormwater controls. Municipal stormwater managers should compare potential benefits and costs of street sweeping. Street sweeping may prove to be more cost-effective than certain structural controls, especially in more urbanized areas with greater areas of pavement (SMRC, Rhode Island).


California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA). 2003. Best Management Practices (BMP) Handbook, Municipal. [ [PDF - 132 KB - 9 pp] Exit EPA Site]. Accessed May 3, 2006

Caraco, D. and R. Claytor. 1997. Stormwater BMP Design Supplement for Cold Climates. Center for Watershed Protection, Ellicott City, MD.

City of Dana Point, California. Street Sweeping. [ Exit EPA Site]. Accessed November 28, 2012.

City of Greeley, Colorado. 1998. Street Sweeping Plan.

Curtis, M. 2002. Street Sweeping for Pollutant Removal. Department of Environmental Protection, Montgomery County Maryland.

Ferguson 1997. Cost Estimating Guidelines: Best Management Practices and Engineered Controls. Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project, Wayne County, MI.

Finley, S. 1996. Sweeping Works. Pavement Maintenance and Reconstruction. October/November. pp. 16 and 17.

Keating, Janis. No date. Street Sweeper, Picking up Speed and Quieting Down. [ w_0207_street.html Exit EPA Site]. Accessed May 4, 2006.

McCarthy, G. 2005. Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Guidelines for Municipal Management Practices for Street Sweepings and Catch Basin Cleanings.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).1997. Managing Street Sweepings.

RIPDES Storm Water Program Guidance Page. No date. Pollution Prevention: Parking Lot and Street Cleaning. [ Exit EPA Site] Accessed May 3, 2006.

Satterfield, C. 1996. Enviro Whirl 1 PM-10 Efficiency Study Removing Reentrained Road Dust. June Lake, CA.

SWRPC. 1991. Costs of Urban Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Control Measures. Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. Waukesha, WI.


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Last updated on November 28, 2012