Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 40
 
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
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Autumn Leaves Challenge Municipalities

Dilshanie Perera

Leaf collection and stormwater management were two related issues that came under review at the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) meeting last week.

Commission members considered the current policies and enforcement of leaf ordinances, agreeing that an educational campaign to spur leaf composting would be beneficial for residents, the municipalities, and stormwater systems alike.

If leaves or other yard debris are left out on the street, they can contribute to hazardous road conditions, flooding when storm drains get clogged, and increased flooding in local streams because of the removal of organic matter from the soil.

Environmental Commission member Steve Hiltner noted that “every municipality is having this conversation … and every town is struggling” with how to manage leaf collection most effectively.

“People don’t realize that their leaves are affecting their neighbors,” remarked PEC member Pam Machold.

Township Committee liaison Liz Lempert suggested that educating residents regarding leaves is of great importance. “They have this valuable resource, and people are spending money to bring it back in,” she said of the process of hauling leaves and buying nutrient-rich fertilizer, instead of composting or mulching leaves to produce the same result.

Mr. Hiltner said that educating the public is necessary, as is a stronger ordinance and enforcement.

In 2007, the Borough of Princeton spent $133,789 on fuel and labor costs associated with leaf collection. Borough residents are instructed not to use leaf bags, but to pile leaves at the curb for pick up no more than seven days before the scheduled date.

The Township has a voluntary bagged leaf program, which entails placing bagged leaves out for collection before 7 a.m. on the day of removal. Township residents may pick up 20 free biodegradable bags at the Public Works Department at the intersection of Valley Road and Witherspoon Street from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or on Saturdays in October from 8 a.m. to noon.

Additionally, loose leaves are collected twice per season, and are to be placed on the paved roadway in the area extending three feet from the curb no more than seven days before the scheduled pickup date.

PEC members discussed the merits of considering a leaf bagging program for the Borough, hoping that such a move would encourage people to simply compost leaves on their own properties.

“Princeton’s Guide to Leaf Management,” a pamphlet created by the PEC, suggests some courses of action that “will benefit soil and plants, reduce fuel use, and keep our air cleaner.”

They suggest raking leaves into a woodlot; mulching leaves with a mower; spreading leaves on a garden to “hold in moisture, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool in the summer, and slowly release nutrients”; or raking leaves into a composting pile or corral. Leaf piles do not require turning, and reduce in size over the winter.

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