Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What do they do with all that snow? Snow Farms

What happens to the snow that gets plowed and shoveled and carted away after a big snowstorm? Up in Boston, anyway, there are designated lots for the snow, called, "snow farms." They have to be governmentally approved, too, which I hope, at least, means that they meet some standards. There is an interesting story on, the Boston Globe's online site about the city considering court action against the owner of a lot who has been allowing the dumping of snow there, when it is not an official snow farm.

The lot is piled two stories high with snow, which neighbors say has been carted in by various construction vehicles since the first major storm hit the city three weeks ago. The site is not one of the Department of Public Works' six designated "snow farms," disposal points for excess snow.
The city issued the stop-work order Friday, but inspectors saw trucks loading more snow onto the lot as recently as Tuesday night, Timberlake said. The owners have been served multiple violations, but have not been fined.

"We put the stop-work order up on the property, and they tore it down and continued to dump snow," she said. "They ignored these violations, so we may forward these violations to court."

William Kiley, the authorized agent representing the owner of the lot, did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

Neighbors like East Second resident Lucky Devlin said that vehicles could be heard as late as 2 a.m. scraping snow on the lot. Residents worry about what will happen when the heap melts, since the lot is paved with asphalt, which means the water will run off rather than seep into the ground.

"The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has guidelines for snow farms, because of what's in it … oil and rock salt and whatever else," Devlin said. "If it melts fast, it's going to go into the Reserve Channel. And worse than that, it may go into the backyards of these residents' homes, and it could possibly flood some."
Snow farms might be a local name for the phenomenon. Here is a TV news story from 10 days ago, and at least one storm ago. There is a video with it. Since then, we've added about another foot of snow and may add another 10 inches tonight (maybe it'll stay with sleet; we'll see!). Since December 26, Boston area has had 50 inches of snow.

Managing that much snow is something I never thought about. There are real environmental consequences to how they manage this much snow, when it begins to melt! A quick rainstorm could cause flooding or overwhelm the storm sewer capacities and send the melting residues right into brooks and the Boston Bay. That's a lot of pollution, because this is NOT fluffy pristine white snow. It has salt and all sorts of road dirt and exhaust mixed into it.

1 comment:

Marie S. Newman said...

Fascinating! I never thought about the environmental consequences of snow before. Like Boston, New York City is suffering from a bad case of snow fatigue.