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Urban Myths Associated with Street Cleaning

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Roger Sutherland Roger Sutherland is considered by many to be the preeminent authority on street sweeper testing in the United States.

Our interview with Sutherland, based on his 2009 APWA Congress and Exposition presentation, examines why it is important that street cleaners be able to pick up the entire range of accumulated particulate. Today, with increasing demands on water cleanliness and accelerated EPA oversight, it is becoming more important than ever that sweeping be done as a Best Management Practice.

In his approximately 30-minute audio interview, Sutherland discusses how communities can design optimal street cleaning programs and reap community-wide stormwater pollutant reduction benefits from a comprehensive program. He provides a brief overview of the flaws in the 1980s NURP sweeper study, and compares the effectiveness of today's sweeper technology with other best management practices for the removal of pollutants from urban runoff. The discussion includes ways to build on the use of existing public works assets to help satisfy NPDES stormwater permit requirements.

More than anyone else this author is aware of, Sutherland is best equipped to determine how to design an optimal street cleaning program and estimate the community-wide stormwater pollutant reduction benefits from the program's implementation. Because of the street sweeping modeling software his company has designed, called "SIMPTM," there is a cost-effective option available to assess likely benefits from various sweeping frequencies in any geographical region -- without having to do costly on-the-ground local testing.

In 2009, Sutherland designed and conducted an independent testing procedure for Elgin, one that used real-world debris levels to assess the pickup ability of several Elgin models. This test, which represents the latest in power sweeper testing procedures, is being furthered by and elsewhere as the best way to test a street sweeper's likely impact on the removal of stormwater runoff pollution.

With today's sweeper technology, Sutherland makes it clear that watershed managers are remiss in not strongly evaluating a higher level of street cleaning as part of their BMP practices. Sweepers are able to remove a higher level of fine particulates than ever and, at the same time, remove a wide range of gross debris as well.

Because sweeping is so much more cost-effective than typical end-of-the-pipe solutions, it offers a higher value than most municipalities realize. Utilizing sweeping in the right proportion is key to providing a solution that offers the best possible approach. The good news is that there are proven techniques to now determine how much sweeping should be done in a given area prior to whatever techniques for stormwater pollution removal are employed.

In this audio interview, Sutherland provides background to the problem of how to best utilize sweeping, as well as covers what is and is not possible today. He then provides insight to what the future of sweeping will be when its ability to combat stormwater pollution is fully realized.

Note: The audio will play without downloading any files onto your computer. If you hear the interview at 'chipmunk speed,' you will need to download the latest version of Adobe's free Flash player.

Download PDF We have available a PDF version of the article Sutherland wrote for the September 2009 APWA Reporter. The information was based on Roger Sutherland's presentation at APWA 2009. Use the button shown to the right to access it.

Download PDF We also have available a PDF version of Sutherland's APWA seminar presentation in PDF format. Use the button shown to the left to access it.

Pacific Water Resources Logo

Located in Beaverton, Oregon, Pacific Water Resources, Inc. is an engineering consulting firm specializing in the fields of hydraulics, hydrology, water quality modeling and evaluation, fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport, and computer-aided mapping. Recognized as a leader in watershed management planning and design, PWR's technical expertise has been at the forefront of every major regulatory and technical advancement for assessing, enhancing and protecting water resources since 1978.

For more company information, or to learn more about the SIMPTM test procedure, visit Roger Sutherland may be reached by calling 503-671-9709 (Ext 240), or via email sent to

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