Conservation Director Alicia Mozian said Tuesday that town regulations prohibit the dumping of debris in wetlands or watercourses.

"Now that autumn has arrived, it seems like the yard work has only begun," Mozian said in a statement. "Before long we'll all be raking and hauling leaves in an effort to clean up, and looking for a way to dispose of leaves. As tempting as it may be, however, our wetlands and watercourses are not the place to be dumping leaves."

Regulations for the protection and preservation of the town's wetlands and watercourses and the town's Waterway Protection Line Ordinance prohibit the dumping of debris in a wetland or watercourse.

"Laws that protect our wetlands and waterways are there to protect the town's natural resources as well as private property," Mozian said.

When people use wetlands for leaf disposal, their natural ability to absorb water for flood control purposes is affected, the statement said. When wetlands are filled in, water is displaced to adjacent properties, causing flooding of neighboring land.

"If wetlands are filled with leaves or otherwise altered, the streams depending on them can run dry in summer months, creating undesirable stagnant pools where running water should be," Mozian said.

There are several options available to Westport residents for proper leaf disposal. Residents can compost leaves in the backyard within a fenced area or a composting receptacle, at least 20 feet away from any wetland or watercourse.

Residents can learn about composting techniques by contacting the town Conservation Department at 203-341-1170, or call Earthplace at 203-227-7253 for educational materials.

Alternatively, residents with a valid sticker can deliver leaves and brush in paper bags to the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane, behind the Westport/Weston Health District. Collected leaves and brush in paper bags can also be left on the side of the road in November, when the town Department of Public Works performs collections.

For more information about leaf removal or the yard waste site, contact the Department of Public Works at 203-341-1120.