Snowmelt: Keeping pollutants out of waterways

Local News

On Tuesday, many across Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire experienced an early taste of spring. As temperatures reached the upper 50s along the Massachusetts state line, to the upper 40s along the international border. Leading to a sharp decline in the snowpack, wet roads, puddles, and plenty of runoff.

In the City of Montpelier, you can find two areas where snow that has been removed from streets and sidewalks have been dumped.

“We have to get the snow and ice off the streets, we need to put it somewhere,” said Tom McArdle director of the Montpelier Public Works Department.

One location is under I-89, across the street from the Green Mountain Cemetery, sitting along the bank of the Winooski River.

The snow melting isn’t clean snow, it contains more than one would think.

“Primarily the finer sediment, the silts that can cause impacts to the fisheries,” said McArdle.

Water from the snowmelt feeds into the Winooski River, and he agrees with Vermont Fish & Wildlife aquatic habitat biologist, sediment in the water is bad for fish, like trout. 

“Fish need that gravel for reproduction. They can’t reproduce if there is too much silt on the river bed,” said Will Eldrige, an aquatic habitat biologist.

Additionally, Eldrige is concerned with salt entering the waterways.

“If there is too much salt in the external environment, in the water, then the fish actually spends a lot of energy trying to maintain it’s salt balance. And it can actually end up being lethal,” said Eldrige.

It’s a good thing that the snow dump along the bank of the Winooski River has a barrier, and it will filter out all the pollutants.

“It’s embedded in the soil. It has a good flow rate, so the water can filter through it leaving behind the sediment that we can then come and gather it up in the spring,” said McArdle.

The Durawattle product is easily taken down in the spring and stored away until the following winter season. McArdle says, it’s fairly inexpensive, and has a life of 3 to 5 years.

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