Yard waste bins get mixed reviews in Salt Lake

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SALT LAKE CITY -- You have surely noticed a big time change in the weather Monday. It's a welcome development for water supply and the ski resorts, but it also presents some challenges.

Weather-wise, it's been a weird fall, with warm weather lasting until just a few days ago. Now, we have all the wet leaves and, in Salt Lake City, a new system to deal with them.

Lakefront property is normally seen as a good thing, unless it's due to a pond of storm water on your street.

Jeff Niermeyer, director of Salt Lake City Public Utilities, said, "We have over 250 miles of storm drain and some 14,000 inlets, so it's a big effort trying to stay on top of it all."

City crews try to stay on top of it by shoveling mushy leaves up with pitch forks. The job is more important than ever since the city recently adopted new brown bins for yard waste, to mixed reviews.

Salt Lake resident Hannah Mickelsen said of the bins, "They're awesome. We love them. We can clean up all of our yard clippings, it's great."

Nancy Mieldell, though, said, "Last year, for the 92-year-old lady down the street, we bagged 32 of leaves. How many bags of leaves are going to fit in the brown barrel?"

City officials say the program aims to divert 50 percent of its waste away from the landfill, extending the life of the landfill by years.

Keeping leaves out of gutters helps prevent flooded streets and improves water quality in the final destination of that runoff, the Jordan River. But with the city no longer picking up bags, residents need to pick up the slack.

"If you stay on top of them and we get these storms as they come through the fall, then we have less leaves that can get down into the gutter," Niermeyer said.

In the meantime, this storm caps a fall of extremes, with long spells of dry and record warm weather punctuated by big downpours. The previous three winters got off to slow, late starts, but this time things may change.

National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney said, "It's early in the game, but an active weather pattern now is very good."

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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