Johnnie St. Vrain: Can Anything Be Done for the Oil Stains on My Street?
Dear Johnnie St. Vrain: First world problem, but irritating just the same.
A few weeks back a street sweeper came through our neighborhood, and several blocks around our neighborhood. If you drive down 21st Avenue, west past Francis Street, and turn left on Tulip Street, you will immediately see that there are long, gloppy oil stains that follow the path of a street sweeper. I saw this the day it happened, but didn’t think much because the street was still wet from street sweeper marks.
I waited for them to dry every day until I realized they are permanent long and looping oil drips, that you can follow all around our neighborhood. In fact, you can see where the poor thing looped around the roundabout twice!
I called the city to explain my problem, but no one returned my call. I can’t be the only one to complain; but given the chance, complain I will, according to my husband. :) I don’t even know what can be done, and what if that reduces the value of our homes? I’m not selling my home right now, but naturally I am worried about it anyway.
Johnnie, can anything be done about this? Did that thing break down due to a lack of oil in the engine? It goes on for blocks and blocks. Will there be a street sweeper clean-up truck coming by anytime soon? Will they be nice and tear up these streets and give us new ones? I would appreciate your opinion, and your help.
Wondering if this is payback for ruining my first car because I didn’t get the oil checked . . . ever . . . like my dad told me to.
Dear Wondering: I’ve got some good news and bad news.
The good news is that you’ve won the prize for longest-ever signature in a Johnnie St. Vrain column. Well done!
The bad news is the oil stains you’re describing most likely can’t be cleaned up.
“The one thing you can almost always count on with large equipment such as street sweepers and trash trucks is that it will eventually leak hydraulic fluid,” said Bob Allen, director of operations for the Department of Public Works & Natural Resources.
Allen said in an email that he’s not aware of any recent equipment leaks, but the department sometimes uses contractors to do work in Longmont.
Sometimes, leaks can go on for a few blocks before the equipment operator notices them, he said. Other times, the grit and materials being swept from the roads have oils in them, creating stains on the pavement during the sweeping process.
Allen also noted that signs of hydraulic leaks are most common on roads serving businesses, due to the frequency of maintenance and delivery vehicles in the area.
In terms of being a hazard, minor leaks tend to absorb into roads’s surfaces, Allen said, though larger leaks can require removal to prevent oil from getting into creeks or storm drains.
And, the answer you wanted least: Allen said they’ve tried many times to remove hydraulic fluid stains from road surfaces, but without any success.
There’s one upshot. Allen suspects the oil stains won’t affect home values, though he can’t guarantee it.
“Most road surfaces are a mosaic of different colors and textures for various reasons including oil stains from parked cars, road patching, utility location marking, and other maintenance activities,” Allen wrote. “The good news is that road surfaces end up with so many stains and imperfections over time they begin to look homogenous again.”