Maine should retain its rules on snow dumps

Allowing municipalities to dump snow directly into rivers and streams, or to store it near them, is a very bad idea that was abandoned years ago for good reason.

But a bill, submitted by Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, now seeks to exempt municipalities from waste discharge licensing requirements that have been in existence for decades.

Briggs is executive secretary for the town of Mexico and says she submitted the bill at the request of the Maine Municipal Association and Mexico Town Manager John Madigan. Gov. Paul LePage also has targeted the snow-removal regulations.

For her part, Briggs says she simply wanted to start a "thoughtful conversation" between town officials and environmental groups on the best way to remove snow.

"It's very important to not do anything that would jeopardize our environment,"she told the Sun Journal in an e-mail.

We couldn't agree more. Our rivers, streams and coastlines are cleaner than they have been in a century. Sport fishing is once again thriving along the length of the Androscoggin River.

But removing regulations on municipal snow dumps would be a step backward.

Madigan says he doubts the science behind the snow-dumping rules, pointing out that driving diesel trucks to more distant locations also pollutes the environment.

But George Belanger, who works for the Lewiston Public Works Department, is not a doubter.

He is proud of the snow containment built by city workers along River Road in the city's outdoor Operations Center.

The snow dump is actually a large containment pond with a clay liner. City crews are now working 18 hours a day to remove snow mounds from city streets.

Belanger is working on one of the crews and knows firsthand that much more than snow is trucked to the snow dump.

He says there are chemicals, cigarette butts, ground-up garbage cans, bottles, dog feces and garbage buried in the snow. And that is in addition to tons of sand, salt and dirt.

The dump on River Road is so large that the snow will not melt until summer.

When the snow is gone, the debris will be revealed, usually about 200 cubic yards that must be hauled away. That's enough to fill about 11 dump trucks. Belanger says he has seen everything from car parts to furniture.

Years ago, the city had two sites where it simply unloaded snow into the river. And for years, dump trucks full of waste and sediment went with it.

Belanger said he grew up near the Little Canada neighborhood and remembers trying to fish in a river that smelled bad and had foam floating on its surface.

Now he marvels to see eagles and sportsmen fishing the river, and he is proud Lewiston helps keep the river clean.

The state's regulations are not onerous or unreasonable. They prohibit dumping snow directly into lakes, rivers and coastal bays. They require that snow be stored away from bodies of water and put in containments or surrounded by silt barriers.

When the snow melts, the material left behind must be cleaned up.

Lifting the rules will not create jobs or attract businesses to Maine. In fact, it may do the opposite.

Cutting red tape is one thing. Putting garbage in rivers, lakes and streams is another, and we should all oppose it.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine should retain its rules on snow dumps

This is a more difficult topic than it may seem at first blush . In fact , many probably thought L / A , Lisbon and Brunswick still dumped the snow , slush , and ice directly in to the Androscoggin River ( i know i did ) . Trash in the river , medical waste , as well as garbage is clearly unacceptable and quite illegal already . L \ A does a - g r e a t - job of keeping the roads clean every winter although the water main breaks every year on Lisbon St ., just like clock work . The garbage collectors in N Y C said there was only one real big difference between this year's snow storms and the blasts from the past ( i.e., Recycling )
Does any firm log up river any more ( Georgia Pacific ® or others ?) and send the logs down stream ? Now there's some real nasty , stinky , foamy , and crappy pollution if you've ever had to see or smell it
As we live in Hawai'i now it's difficult to comment on this other than to say that water by - product all ends up in your many Maine rivers eventually . What ever is leeched out is leeched out on whom-so-ever's property they dump the stuff on ( in due course ) . There is E P A Superfund $$ for major clean-ups that has been available ever since President Carter was our President
We are not tree huggers . Trees , people , and chickens ( De Coster's egg farms ) are all renewable resources . Snow is a nuisance . People can be also if their furniture gets covered by snow at the side of the road whilst they eagerly await pick-up with baited breathe
We get snow here also . Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are both almost 14,000 ft. tall
Our problems are simply vog , feral pigs & cats , mongeese , earth shakes and tsunamis
Hug a child today • /s, Dr. Dosh 02.11.22 , ? 5 pm hst •
Sunjournal : Firefox ® prevented 1 1 popups from occurring ? Good gracious • Eleven ?

 's picture

Just say no

This should be a no starter. It is just disgusting how much crap people throw out. And she wants to dump that in a concentrated form into what ever body of water is easiest? Makes you wonder what convenient things are done in the town office...

 's picture

yeah that would be stupid!

yeah that would be stupid! nothing like the american wayyy... 'its an inconvenience and in OUR way so who cares-lets keep abusing our earth!'

She wants to remove a bill

She wants to remove a bill that prohibits snow dumping next to or in rivers.

 's picture

correct me if i'm

correct me if i'm misunderstanding please. does sheryl briggs want to protect the environment by dumping snow into the rivers?

AL PELLETIER's picture

river quality

I'm old enough to remember crossing the bridge between Brunswick and Topsham in the 50's and holding my nose all the way across due to the stench from the Andy. I sure would hate to see those good old days again.


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