Important Update: Work on breaking down the snow dump has been approved by council
April 30, 2023
Anyone who passes by our snow dump on Marc Chagall Avenue will agree that it is a hideous sight.
There was a lot of snow this winter and as a result the dump is being called “Mount Chagall” by some people.
Dating back a number of years now, I have successfully advocated members of council to vote in favor of a special allocation to bring in equipment to chop the remnants of the hard and filthy snow into pieces. We dis so again last week.
Normally this kind of work commences in May, but our Public Works Department notes that the contractor they hire might not be able to break the snow up until June in order to ensure the work will be successful.
I would like to thank Isabella Pietracupa, our Sustainable Development Technician at Public Works for taking the time to provide me with this exclusive report. I had earlier alluded to environmental concerns from a study on a snow dump in Regina.
Isabella is a scientist and an engineer who has assisted in the evaluation and development of many projects related to the environment, the analysis of plans, estimates and contracts as well as acted as the representative of DDO for various events and working groups. "We are very proud to have this type of expertise in our department so that we can work on projects related to sustainable development, contaminants, biodiversity, and many other aspects of healthy environments necessary for our city," notes Public Works Director Beatrice Newman.
What follows is proof positive of the care Public Works is taking to ensure that the highest safety standards are in place.
The reality of the Marc-Chagall snow dump by Isabella Pietracupa
Although I can’t speak to the standards at which Regina’s snow dump is held to, I can speak to the regulations that Quebec snow dumps must follow.
The Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP) has very strict regulations is place for both the building and operating of a snow dump (or a Lieu d’élimination de neige, LEN).
A snow dump must first and foremost be authorized by the Ministère by way of a certificate of authorization as defined in the Loi sur la qualité de l'environnement. The Marc-Chagall snow dump received its certificate of authorization allowing the City to build and exploit the land in accordance with all the Ministry’s requirements. This certificate was emitted in 2002 following the acceptance of various documents describing the following technical aspects of the dump (not an exhaustive list):
- What would be stored on the site
- Infrastructure in place for rain and melt water management
- Wastewater treatment systems and points of discharge in the surrounding environment
- Direction of waterflow (slopes, ditches)
- Size of the site
- Management of debris from the site
- Access points to the site
Once the certificate has been emitted, cities must ensure the snow dump is then followed on a yearly basis and continues to meet all the Ministry’s requirements. Cities are held accountable to ensure the snow dump meets the regulations outlined in in the Règlement sur la gestion de la neige, des sels de voiries et des abrasifs.
In addition to visual inspections by our expert city personnel, a characterization of meltwater and runoff must be done four times a year, during the spring/summer season.
These tests, performed by an accredited laboratory, are required to ensure the protection of the surrounding environment and people. Simply put, these tests ensure the negative impacts of meltwater on our hydrological cycle are mitigated.
In the case of Marc-Chagall, there is no surrounding natural watercourses that the meltwater can access. All meltwater is directed into surrounding ditches, where it then flows:
- into two manholes,
- a catch basin,
- and finally gets discharged into the city’s sewer system where it undergoes treatment in a wastewater treatment site.
The flow of the meltwater has been designed to ensure pollutants are treated to the highest extent before reaching the sewer system. For example, snow melts in the center of the site where the slope of the ground directs the water down the side of a vegetated ditch where vegetation acts as a primary filter for contaminants.
From there it slowly travels down the ditch, and into one of two manholes. Once in the manhole, the water accumulates in the catch basin, allowing particles to sediment to the bottom (this avoids them entering the sewer system). The basin and ditches are also cleaned regularly, and debris is disposed of in proper disposal sites.
The four water samples test the following 3 contaminants:
- Matières en suspension (MES ) (Suspended matter) (3 different tests are performed for this)
- Oils and fats
The results of these tests can show the quality of the snow and meltwater collected in the site. Often these types of contaminants come from various sources such as debris on roadways, abrasives, salts, and corrosion of vehicles. The Ministry has a certain concentration of the above-mentioned contaminants which is acceptable. To my knowledge, only once did we exceed the acceptable concentrations, in 2022 and this, for only two of the four samples taken that year. It was concluded that our results for suspended matter and total oils and fats were above the acceptable limits during the June and September sampling. However, it was deduced that these results may have been too high due to work being done in the snow dump around the same time as the sampling (operations to break down the snow hill in the spring/summer). A report was prepared and sent to the Ministry justifying the causes of these results and corrective measures were put in place to ensure this would not repeat itself (more frequent cleaning of the catch basin and ditches for example).
So far, the first sampling of 2023 has come out to be conforming and under the limit for potential contaminants.
It goes without saying that having a snow dump site in Côte Saint-Luc is, by far, an absolute necessity for city snow removal operations. Have a site in our backyard allows our trucks to easily double (and probably triple) the amount of snow they could collect in one day. Without our snow dump, we would have to transport the snow to another site, taking up time that could be spent on snow removal. Employees would have to drive farther, more greenhouse gases would be emitted, snow removal costs would go up, more hours would be put on the vehicles, and even more snow would need to be blown on lawns. With a well managed snow dump site, the city, its residents, and the environment all win.
Figure 1: Example of test results for 4 samplings (notice for MES 3 different tests are used, we must be under the limit of at least one to be conforming).
Director Newman has provided me with a wide array of additional facts which underline how lucky we are to have our own snow dump.
TRUCKS, COSTS, ETC.:
- The cost for a transport truck is currently $100 per hour and we don’t know what it will be next year.
- The external dumps cost between $2-$3 per cubic metric ton
- We clear 50% of the city in-house while the contractors do the other 50%.
- We currently have 15 trucks for our 5 blowers (sectors). If we must travel to a dump, we will need to double or triple our total trucks.
- The contractors use approximately 20 trucks, they too will have to double or triple their trucks, going from 20 to approximately 60
- Trucks will have to wait in line with other cities at the dumps. For example, If the lineup goes until closing time at the dump, you’ve paid $100 per hour for them to sit on the street for hours and then they have to return and start the day in line again.
- The number of trucks and their drivers has substantially decreased over the last few years. It’s difficult to hire.
- Gas emissions will increase considerably
- Fuel costs will increase considerably
- If directed to a sewer depot and not a snow hill dump, the truck can stand in line and if the water gets too cold the truck will be turned around because they won’t be permitted to dump their truck.
- When working with a dump as we do with garbage, there must be a contract that usually requires guaranteed hours upfront.
- We must follow Montreal’s schedule.
- The schedule for snow operations will no longer be three days but will take 2 weeks
- During a snowstorm, the transport trucks will be stuck in traffic back and forth from the city, again delaying city operations
- Between 7a m – 7 pm CSL can do 4 loads (transports) per hour- it takes 10 minutes to get to Marc Chagall from Blossom
- The same schedule but snow dumped elsewhere, will total approximately 12 loads (transports) per hour
- Last year, 2022, transport trucks were sent away because the dumps were at full capacity. There were no dumps available for a contract.
- We will absolutely blow most of our snow on all lawns as Hamstead does. Eliminate to exception lists and direct the contractors to blow snow from the mains on local properties.
· The Town of Hampstead blows all of its snow on all properties. There aren’t any No Snow lists whatsoever. When they wish to use our dump, it’s because there is no room left in the Town
· At most, the Town will use not more than 15% of our snow dump. This percentage does not impede our operations.
· Our total amount of snow in February was 108,314 m3. Hampstead contributed 15m3.
· We earn revenue from the Town using our dump.
· We will continue to have good relations with our neighbour. Perhaps we can’t always visualize the benefits of being a good neighbour. We share equipment, ideas, employees, and data with the Town. It helps our operations and at times saves us expenses (putting up the menorah).
· If a natural disaster may occur like an ice storm, floods, or other, it’s necessary to be able to get assistance from our neighbours and vice versa. In the meantime, during good days and regular life, Hampstead and CSL share equipment, ideas, and good relations.
· If their mayor doesn’t want us to use Fleet then maybe we can negotiate and use the snow dump as an incentive.
· Snow naturally turns black in the winter when melting.
· When snow is exposed to high temperatures, it turns black because the water in the snow turns into steam.
· When steam touches metal, it produces heat. This heat can be seen as black smoke coming out of the bottom of a pot or pan that is on a stove. The same thing happens when snow is exposed to high temperatures.
· The snow that enters the dump is mostly fresh snow that our blowers take from the street directly to the dump.
· The actual residue of residual waste/garbage is nominal.
· There is a fair amount of street waste ie sand, salt, and stone that also contributes to the colour.
· Public Works manages the snow dump according to regulations dictated by the Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP) which has very strict regulations in place for both the building and operating of a snow dump.
· We have a specific budget for the breaking down, clearing and tamping of the dump floor from late spring to early fall. Depending on the amount of snow that we received that year, the snow can be cleaned up faster in those years when we have a light year.
· We can only break down the hill as it starts to melt. There are no machines or equipment that can crawl up the hill and start breaking solid ice. That is why we work in there for a bit and return a few times when the area has melted and is safe to approach.
Tous ceux qui passent devant notre décharge située sur l'avenue Marc Chagall conviendront qu'il s'agit d'un spectacle hideux.
Il y a eu beaucoup de neige cet hiver, ce qui a valu à cette décharge d'être surnommée le "Mont Chagall" par certaines personnes.
Depuis plusieurs années, j'ai plaidé avec succès auprès des membres du conseil municipal pour qu'ils votent en faveur d'une allocation spéciale afin d'apporter de l'équipement pour couper en morceaux les restes de la neige dure et sale. C'est ce que nous avons fait la semaine dernière.
Normalement, ce type de travail commence en mai, mais il se peut que nous ne puissions pas briser la neige avant le mois de juin afin d'assurer la réussite du travail.