by Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist and Watersheds Project Director
Good morning Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
My name is Nick Bennett, and I am the staff scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Snow that has been removed from roadways contains many pollutants such as salt, animal feces, hydrocarbons, heavy metals and trash. From a practical standpoint, it is a bad idea to deposit this snow directly into waterbodies. Imagine the effects doing so could have on calm flats, which are typically located right along the shore, where snow would be dumped from a truck. Dumping these materials on a productive shellfish bed could very quickly result in closure of the bed due to fecal coliform from animal waste.
It is a much better idea to pile snow in an area not adjacent to a water body, where it can melt slowly and the runoff can be buffered by vegetation and percolation of water into the soil. Much like storm water runoff from parking lots, it is possible to reduce the pollution in runoff from snow piles if the water passes through a vegetated area prior to entering a water body. Pollutants in the runoff from snow piles adsorb to organic material in the soil and also infiltrate into soil where silt and sediment filter out.
I have attached a useful article on pollution from snow removed from roadways, parking lots, and other areas. This article clearly recommends that snow be piled in areas where the soil has infiltration capacity and where vegetation can buffer runoff from the pile. It also states that debris should be removed from the area after the pile has melted.
Thus, dumping snow directly into waterbodies, as LD 333 would allow, is not a good idea. In certain emergency situations where direct discharge of snow to a waterbody is necessary, it would also be illegal to do so without a permit. Section 301 of the Clean Water Act bans the discharge of pollutants to waterbodies without a permit. Snow that has come off roadways contains many pollutants, so LD 333 would likely result in Maine violating federal law.
Please vote ought not to pass on LD 333.