Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Snow Dump Watch

Snow dump in field off of DVP Bayview/Bloor offramp. The triangular building on the left is a salt storage facility across the road from the snow dump.

February 2008 has seen a record amount of snowfall in Toronto. Until recently, the city's policy has been to leave it in place where, in time, the sun's rays would take care of removing it for free. Unfortunately, there has been so much of it that the city has decided to remove it all. The snow has to go somewhere and the Don Valley is the unfortunate recipient for part of it. This site is just north of the the Bloor Viaduct and can be clearly seen by thousands of subway riders every day. The city also has about 7 other facilities where it can dump the snow including this one in the port lands.

While it may be nice to have clear roads for driving and parking, the environmental impact on the Don is severe. Accompanying the snow is a large amount of road salt. The salt when dissolved in water becomes toxic to aquatic life in the quantities contained here. In previous studies, levels as high as 4000 mg/l (milligrams per litre) have been found in melt waters after a spring thaw in the Don River. Provincial water quality levels call for no more than 200 mg/l of salt in water. Not too many things can live in water this salty.

In addition to the salt there is also other road pollutants such as oil, grease, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), and all sorts of other garbage that gets scooped up with the snow. These chemicals either enter the water or contaminate the ground where the snow dump resides. Many of the trees surrounding this dump have already died due to the toxic runoff from this dump.

This is the third time in the past 10 years this site has been used. In 1999 (the year of the Mel Lastman called in the army) the snow pile eventually hardened into a brownish-black lump of ice. It sat there until mid-August before it completely melted. The 2008 pile is already larger. I plan to take periodic photographs to plot its growth/shrinkage throughout this year's spring and summer. It should make an interesting photo study.

Previous snow dumps:

Snow dump - 2004. This 'small' pile disappeared by late June.

Snow dump - 1999. This pile didn't completely melt until August.


Anonymous said...

I am glad I am not the only one that has considered the potential impact of these snow dumps...I pass the giant snow dump that has been created at Downsview. I thought it was huge until I saw the Don Valley dump begin to form..I wonder if the City has the approval of the MOE to dump in this location? A bit of quick research took me to the Ottawa Riverkeepers web site where I found a discussion about a similar issue. The author of that site brings attention to an MOE guideline that municipalities are suppose to adhere to. I have provided the link to the location of the document. It is an interesting little read. Have a look at Point 5 under "Land Site Criteria". Note the 600' distance to surface water. Then look at your posted pic...I see a drainage ditch flowing to the Don that appears to be within 20' of the foot of the dump....This particular site I think deserves a little look from the MOE, otherwise we may end up with a briny Don River.


Anonymous said...

hey keep us all updated, im interested to see how long this snow pile can last.... i have a question,why is it so brown and dtrty and it is only march? shouldnt it be nice and white snow still?

Donwatcher said...

Good question. Most of the content is ice and snow but there is a small percentage of sand, grit, oil, and other garbage. When the snow melts the water runs off but leaves a brown grimy residue behind. Once all the snow melts the city comes by and cleans most of this up but some of it does leach into the soil and this creates long term contamination issues.

Anonymous said...

hows the pile doing?

Friends Of Downsview Park said...

Here's a video of the massive dump the city is putting next to downsview park. You will not believe the size of it - it is possibly the biggest dump like this in Canada ( at least that I am aware of at present ).