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Whirling Brushes, Scrubbing Bristles a Sure Sign it’s Spring

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- While we struggle with wet leaves and dusty shelves, public works crews are busy with their own spring cleaning.

Like the robins and daffodils, street sweepers are a good sign that it's spring. You know the sound -- brushes whirling, bristles scrubbing.

They turn grimy gutters to clean curbs at 6.5 miles per hour.

“I enjoy my job,” said Chuck Burrell.

He and the crew can scrub all of Des Moines in a matter of weeks.

“The people are happy to see you and the kids are always happy,” Burrell said. “We get a lot of kids that will wave at us and come out and say ‘Hi.”

They’ve recently been hitting the Drake area to spruce things up for the Relays.

“Everybody that comes from out of town will have a nice impression of the city,” Burrell said.

The streets look better and also work better.

“Cleans not only the street, but it cleans off the intakes and it allows the water and the debris to go down the intake that needs to be down there,” said Caleb Adam-Brown, of Des Moines Public Works.

This is the second pass through Des Moines this year, but things get dirty quick.

“One street might take 2-3 passes to get clean,” Adam-Brown said.

When the hopper’s full, it’s time for a dump.

“Probably 10-12 dump loads can go on each truck, and then once they get completed, they go to the Harriet Street dump,” Adam-Brown said.

There the debris is treated as hazardous waste, thanks to the oil that’s in it.

Meanwhile, the sweeper keeps rolling through Des Moines’ dirtiest.

You can help the cause. If your street needs a sweep, pick up the phone and call the Des Moines Public Works customer hotline at 515-283-4950. They’ll be there within 48 hours and then back again until sweeper season comes to a close.

In all, Des Moines Public Works maintains 913 miles of road and many public parking lots. The sweepers run until fall when the temperature dips below 30 degrees.

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