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City of Portland, Maine keeps streets clear of debris, mitigates the amount of pollution entering catch basins

Combating the challenges associated with the changing seasons is no small task for the City of Portland, Maine. Spearheading the effort to keep the streets tidy is the city’s Department of Public Works.

“The main reason our water resources division is in charge of street maintenance is to keep stormwater runoff from polluting the waterways, which has become an industry focus that we’re tackling through an integrated plan that Nancy Gallinaro, our water resources manager, has been working on,” explained Water Resources Operations Manager Bill Boornazian, PE. “Our goal is to remove things such as leaves, sand and salt before they enter the catch basins. By proactively sweeping the streets, we’re able to mitigate the impact downstream.”

The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining 256 miles of roadway and meeting compliance directives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). While water treatment plants can remove undesirable material from the water, consistent street sweeping efficiently reduces stress on the facilities and lowers the associated costs, so high-density areas are swept on a weekly basis.

During the fall, the Department of Public Works removes upwards of 3,500 cubic yards of leaves citywide.

“The streets around the City of Portland collect a lot of leaves during the fall, which presents several safety hazards,” noted Boornazian. “They can block drainage inlets during heavy rains and cause flooding. They freeze in cold weather and become an issue. Over the years, we’ve established a robust program to keep the streets clear, especially in October/November.”

In the spring, the Department of Public Works collects roughly 3,000 tons of debris, which includes the residual sand, salt, leaves and other corrosive materials from the winter.

 “Whenever possible, we try and sweep the streets to prevent the material from accumulating at landfills, catch basins and inlet structures because removing it is labor intensive,” Boornazian said. “Through our street sweeping efforts, we can proactively capture the material and save the taxpayers’ money.”

Elgin Right Fit

For over 50 years, John Emerson has been a part of the public works industry. Since 2007, he has been the utility coordinator for the City of Portland. When Emerson took over the position, the department had little consistency in its fleet.

“We started out with some old, poorly maintained sweepers from a variety of different vendors,” recalled Emerson. “It was difficult to keep them up and running and maintained. We quickly realized standardizing the fleet around one unit would be more reliable and efficient. After testing out multiple brands, it was apparent the Elgin product was the best fit for us.”

Today, the Department of Public Works utilizes a fleet of six Elgin Pelican sweepers to keep its city streets free of debris.

“The sweepers give the operator a tremendous amount of visibility to see what’s happening around them,” noted Emerson. “All of the curbs in Portland are granite, which means our operator needs to have sight lines to make sure he doesn’t wear down the equipment. The Elgin sweepers combine height and visibility to maximize our operators’ efficiency.

“Operator comfort also plays a role,” Emerson added. “The cabin is spacious, the seats are comfortable, and the machine is easy to operate. With our crew of approximately 18 operators, having a universal machine that any of them can jump on and run is important.”

C.N. Wood partnership leads to additional machines

When the Department of Public Works was deciding which brand of sweeper to use, dealer support played an important role. For Emerson, C.N. Wood and sales representative Fred Griego have proven that working together was the right choice.

“The team at C.N. Wood is very responsive whenever we have a question,” stated Emerson. “They do an excellent job helping train our operators. Most importantly, when we call and need regular wear and tear maintenance performed, the turnaround time is excellent. We feel like a priority.”

The great relationship with C.N. Wood led the Department of Public Works team to add a Vactor 2100i combination sewer cleaner and an IBAK TV truck with the RapidView IBAK pipeline and manhole inspection system.

“The combination machine is used to clean, vacuum and maintain 1.4 million feet of sewer pipe annually,” said Emerson. “The IBAK TV truck unit is used to CCTV (closed-circuit television) up to 150,000 linear feet of sewer every year. The TV truck allows us to inspect and maintain the city’s sewers. It also gives us the ability to prioritize and update our capital programs based on the condition of our sewer system here in Portland. Some of our sewers are 130 years old and decrepit. The IBAK makes it possible for us to regularly inspect them, analyze the information, and then determine if and when we need to replace a sewer.

“C.N. Wood, in coordination with the city’s Fleet Department, helps improve and streamline our maintenance programs,” continued Emerson. “Because we have so few units, uptime is key. C.N. Wood does an excellent job making sure our machines are well maintained and ready to take on any job.”

Extending the sweepers’ lives

Currently, the Department of Public Works budgets to replace one Pelican unit annually through its six-year rotation plan.

“These machines hold up very well, which is why we’re able to get six years out of them,” said Emerson. “Because we’re one of the larger cities in the area, we work the machines harder than some of the smaller townships. We stay on top of our maintenance so that when we trade in the sweeper, another township that doesn’t have the same demand we do can still find a lot of success with the sweeper. Everybody benefits.”

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