More than 400 tons of trash, debris and pollutants have been collected from Baltimore streets in the last month under a new citywide mechanical street sweeping program, according to the city's public works department.
The 401.1 tons collected were in addition to what was also collected under the city's long-standing sweeping routes in downtown and central areas of the city, though the new and old routes overlap some, said Kurt Kocher, a public works spokesman.
Total citywide tonnage for the month was not available, Kocher said. Under the city's previous, more limited sweeping program, about 10,200 tons of trash and pollutants were collected in all of 2013.
The new program expanded sweeping to about 90 percent of the city, including to many streets that had never seen mechanical street sweepers before. The move was seen as a way to clean more neighborhoods but also reduce the introduction of pollutants into area waterways — a key priority of national and state environmental agencies.
City officials cheered the sweepers' first month collection success.
"That's 400 tons of litter, broken glass, vehicle fluids, bacteria and other pollutants that have been removed from our neighborhood streets and kept out of our waterways," said Rudolph Chow, director of the public works department, in a statement.
Chow also said he hopes the tonnage will "come down quickly and stay low" in future months as crews make progress in areas that have long been neglected.
The new street sweeping program, which added some 76,000 street miles to the city's coverage area, left the biweekly downtown and central district sweeping schedules intact and split the rest of the city into four quadrants.
In those quadrants, sweeping now occurs between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. In the northwest and southeast quadrants, sweeping is conducted on the first Wednesday of each month on odd-numbered sides of streets and on the second Wednesday of each month on even-numbered sides.
In the northeast and southwest quadrants, sweeping is conducted on the third Wednesday of each month on odd-numbered sides of streets and on the fourth Wednesday on even-numbered sides.
The city has largely relied on word of mouth and community-led initiatives to get residents to comply with the program so far, and cars parked in areas slated for sweeping have been an issue this month, officials said. Mechanical issues caused by "heavy or caked-on filth" on the sweepers has also caused issues.
To improve compliance, the city public works department said it is planning to prepare "temporary signs" that residents can use to remind others about the sweeping. Permanent signage was considered cost-prohibitive when the expanded program was devised, officials have said.