Even though the mowing season is drawing to a close, Lenoir City and the city of Loudon hope one pesky problem is soon gone for good.
Driving along city roadways, motorists often find grass clippings blown into streets. Besides an aesthetics issue, small blades of grass can accumulate into a problem, Loudon Public Works Director Bill Fagg and Lenoir City Street Department Superintendent J.J. Cox said.
"And see we go right out of the mowing season into the leaf season," Cox said, pointing out that fall brings a similar problem.
"It's not anything that's just started. People have been doing it for years," Fagg said.
Both men said grass clippings can block drainage catch basins and pose a hazard on roadways. They're fed up with the issue.
"Sometimes we call the chief of police and he sends somebody out and have them get it back out. ... We've had two this year where we've had the police assist us with it," Fagg said. "They talk to them and the next week when they mow they do the same thing."
Loudon considers it littering, according to the city charter, and residents could face a $50 fine.
"It's unlawful to litter the streets," Fagg said. "Blowing the grass into the road — it's just an eyesore when you drive by and somebody has mowed the yard and the whole road is littered up in front of the property.
"... A lot of people mow and they bring the whole yard down — papers, sticks and whatever is in it — and blows it out into the road, out into the drainage ways and when it comes a rain it washes it all into the catch basins and it clogs up the drains," Fagg said. "It seems like it's getting worse all the time."
A street sweeper isn't designed to pick up wet, green grass.
"The biggest problem is it gets into the drainage system and covers up the catch basin covers where the water runs right on across it and most likely it floods out some of the neighbors on down the street," Fagg said.
"It's just a big mess," Cox said, adding that he could not pinpoint why the problem has grown in Lenoir City in recent years.
"One thing (it's) going into our stormwater system and another thing just to me it looks tacky and bad out there on our streets just blew everywhere," Cox said. "We have sweeper trucks that we try to run, but you can't just stay on the same streets all the time. You have to cover the whole town."
Bags of grass clippings weighing less than 40 pounds will be picked up by Loudon's cleanup trucks.
"We probably have 8-10 people that actually does it, but ... more people are doing it because they think that's the way they are supposed to do it. If they see a street sweeper coming by and they can blow their yard out in the road without having to bag it or rake it up or anything that would probably be the easier way to get rid of it but that's not the proper way to get rid of their grass clippings," Fagg said.
Cox said in the past few years Lenoir City has been trying to clean out its stormwater system, but grass clippings and leaves hinder that progress and tacks on more costs to the city.
"What it does it gets into there and collects and turns into dirt and it just clogs it and stops it all up and that's where the problems start," Cox said. "We are in the midst of running one run, which is about $5,000, and that was OK'd ... at the city council meeting, and what we do may result in cleaning 10 out or something like that."
Surrounding cities are having similar problems with grass clippings on the roadway, Fagg said.
"The drainage system is the main problem we are going to have later on. If a twig gets down in that drain pipe and gets crossways and the grass catches on that and stops up it could be thousands of dollars," Fagg said. "I paid $15,000 to get one pile cleaned up on the main highway."