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Street Sweeping - The Law
March 31, 2003

During the continuing Richmond street sweeping wars, a number of individuals (City staff and citizens, alike) have made reference to the “legal” requirement for street sweeping and interpreted it inconsistently.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I have finally obtained an actual copy of the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) Permit No. CA0029912 (Order No. 99-058) that pertains to Richmond. The permit was issued by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, on July 21, 1999, and expires July 21, 2004.

I might add that I was unable to obtain a copy from City sources. Presumably a copy exists in City files but could not be located.

The permit covers not only Richmond, but also all of Contra Costa County, including 16 incorporated cities. It was sent to me by Christine Boschen, Environmental Scientist, who can be reached at 510/622-2346 or email ceb@rb2.swrcb.ca.gov.

Ms. Boschen emphasized that “It is the City of Richmond’s responsibility under the Municipal Permit to implement stormwater quality Best Management Practices (BMPs) to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP). What is MEP is constantly evolving, and it is not only appropriate for the City to take stock and make adjustments as needed, but the Permit requires it.”

The excerpts from the permit that follow support these questions and answers:


1.   Is street sweeping required in everywhere in Richmond where streets have curbs? YES.


2.   Is Richmond required to discourage “opt-outs?” YES

3.   Is Richmond required to take appropriate measures to keep curbed areas clear and to seek ways to remove vehicles? YES

4.   Does Richmond have flexibility over exactly how it achieves the above requirements? YES, SO LONG AS THEY CAN BE PROVEN EFFECTIVE.

5.   Is Richmond required to cite and/or tow vehicles that impede street sweeping? NO

I would also like to address a comment from a constituent who quoted Ms Boschen as saying, “"Street sweeping is not the most effective tool for eliminating pollution from storm water discharges. Usually storm water pollution is attached to fine particles like silt and clay that street sweeping can't get at."

I questioned Ms. Boschen about this, and she said that her comments had been taken out of context. She explained that, for new communities, there are effective ways of constructing storm water infrastructure, such as retention basins, filters, wetlands and treatment options that can control particles and substances that are difficult to completely remove by street sweeping. However, in an existing city, like Richmond, the cost of constructing such infrastructure would be prohibitive, making street sweeping an essential pollution control strategy.

As I said in the March 23, 2003, E-FORUM, “Citizens have legitimate concerns about many inconveniences related to a street sweeping programs, but we have to remember that, in the end, it's not about aesthetics, parking, or personal convenience; it's about the environment." It's also about the law.

Under the Order, Finding 9, the permit states:

“Each of the Dischargers is individually responsible for adopting and enforcing ordinances, implementing assigned BMPs to prevent or reduce pollutants in stormwater, and providing for funds for capital, operation, and maintenance expenditures necessary to implement such BMPs for the storm drainage system that it owns and/or operates. Assigned BMPs to be implemented by each Discharger are listed as Performance Standards in the Plan. Enforcement actions concerning this Order will, whenever necessary, be pursued only against the individual Discharger(s) responsible for specific violations of this Order”

Under the Order, Dischargers are required to do the following:

C.3: Stormwater Management Plan: The Dischargers shall implement BMPs referred to as Performance Standards in the Plan, to reduce pollutants in stormwater discharges to the maximum extent practicable. The Plan shall serve as the framework for identification, assignment, and implementation of BMPs. The Dischargers shall begin implementing forthwith the Plan and shall subsequently demonstrate its effectiveness and provide for necessary and appropriate revisions, modifications, and improvements to reduce pollutants in stormwater discharges to the maximum extent practicable and as required by Provisions C.1 through C.14 of this Order.

C.4. Performance Standards: The Plan incorporates Performance Standards developed by the Dischargers. Performance Standards also referred to as BMPs, are intended to define the level of implementation necessary to demonstrate the reduction of pollutants in stormwater to the maximum extent practicable. Through a continuous improvement process, the dischargers will modify and improve current performance standards, as needed, to achieve reduction of pollutants in stormwater to the maximum extent practicable.

Under “Performance Standards” are the following pertaining to street sweeping:

Municipal Maintenance Performance Standards (Page 1 of 31)

Street Cleaning Frequency

MUNI-1: Each agency will sweep curbed streets on at least a monthly average unless an alternative schedule is approved as described in MUNI-1. In calculating this average, the number of curb miles swept in a fiscal year divided by the number of curb miles within an agency will equal 12 or greater.

MUNI-2: If an agency chooses to sweep streets less than on a monthly average, the rationale for the alternative standard must be described in a written action plan. The rationale should demonstrate the alternative schedule is equivalent in terms of protecting water quality as the annual average sweeping. The action plan will be submitted to the Regional Board as part of the Annual Report. The alternative standard will not be effective until approved by the Regional Board’s Executive Officer, and approval will be presumed unless it is rejected in writing within 90 days of its submittal.

MUNI3: For agencies that do not sweep every street at least once a month, the street sweeping that is conducted to achieve the monthly average described in UNI-1 above should be prioritized to sweep the streets that have been found to typically be the dirtiest and to conduct sweeping prior to the rainy season.

MUNI-4: Each agency will identify and target areas for more frequent sweeping throughout the year or just prior to the rainy season.

Street Cleaning Operation to Maximize Pollutant Removal

MUNI-5: Each agency will check that street sweeping equipment is in proper adjustment.

MUNI-6: Each agency should operate street sweeping equipment at the speed specified by the manufacturer.

MUNI-7: When using broom sweepers, the operator will check that the proper weights on main and gutter brooms are used.

MUNI-8: Each agency will discourage allowing residents to “opt out” of its street sweeping program.

MUNI-9: When purchasing new sweepers, the agency will review alternative equipment and new technologies to maximize pollutant removal.

MUNI-10: Each agency will provide operators with adequate resources to conveniently report trees interfering with street sweeping.

MUNI-11: Each agency will track and report curbed miles swept in the Annual Report.

MUNI-12: Each agency will track the volume or weight of material removed in the Annual Report.

MUNI-13: Each agency will identify and target areas for additional efforts to remove vehicles, as appropriate.

MUNI-14: Each agency will specify in all new or re-bid contracts that in case of equipment failure, back up equipment must be available to ensure the rote is completed and all information necessary for record keeping will be provided.

MUNI-15: Each agency will maintain a consistent street sweeping schedule to the maximum extent practicable (MEP). A copy of the street sweeping schedule shall be submitted with the Annual Report.

MUNI-16: Each agency will take appropriate measures to keep curbed areas clear during street sweeping. Measures may include but are not limited to posting “no stopping,” “no parking” signs in Business Districts, near large apartment complexes, etc.; posting street sweeping signs on streets where appropriate; and, distributing newsletters and other public education materials notifying residents and businesses of street sweeping schedules.

MUNI-17: Schedule street sweeping activities when parked cars have minimal impact.

MUNI-18: Each agency will investigate and develop, if necessary, alternative methods of handling leaf fall and will develop an appropriate leaf removal program, such as:


·Operate street sweeping equipment in tandem;


·Utilize a leaf removal machine just prior to street sweeping;

·Utilize a front end loader with a dump trick just prior to sweeping; and/or

·Encourage residents to collect and compost leaves or coordinate with a local composting program. If composting is infeasible, agencies may schedule removal of bagged leaves.