Most Americans are familiar with the inconveniences caused by winter, such as frozen driveways, ice roofs, and slippery roads. You can bet, many look forward to seeing the snow melt as this signals the arrival of spring’s warmer, cozier days.

After Storms

However, melting snow ends one problem but starts another one—runoff stormwater pollution. When snow melts, the water carries all types of contaminants with it that eventually end up in nearby bodies of water. This is precisely the problem that a concerned resident of Basalt, CO brought up with the Aspen Daily News:

“The large piles of dirty snow that municipal workers have stacked on street corners, along roadsides and at snow dump sites throughout the Roaring Fork Valley during recent storms have some locals wondering whether water quality and wildlife will be threatened as the sullied heaps of snow start to melt.

“Please find out why the town of Basalt is dumping street snow right above the Fryingpan River at the intersection of Riverside and Cottonwood drives, where it will melt and flow into the gold medal fishing waters,” wrote Carbondale resident Roberta McGowan in a recent email to the Aspen Daily News.”

This issue is of particular importance in urban areas where roads are paved, thus preventing snowmelt and rainwater from naturally seeping into the ground. As a result, more untreated water reaches lakes, rivers, and oceans. When this happens, the pollutants encourage the rapid growth of water plants, which could eventually deplete the oxygen dissolved in water and endanger aquatic life. Furthermore, contaminants can make the water unfit for drinking and bathing, thereby endangering the general public.

Local governments are mandated by the Clean Water Act to develop a stormwater best management practices (BMP) system to deal with runoff pollution. Many use stormwater chambers to store and treat runoff water, but there are concerns as to how much water they can hold, how well they can clean it, and how much the overall maintenance costs are. Fortunately, established companies like HydroLogic Solutions, Inc. have created a top-notch stormwater system called StormChamber to help control water pollution.

For urban dwellers, rivers and oceans may be the last thing on their mind. However, snowmelt and stormwater runoff pollution not only threatens water bodies, but people as well. Fortunately, local governments can rely on industry-leading stormwater systems to ensure that water is properly filtered and treated before they reach bodies of water.

(Source: After storms, snow removal brings water pollution concerns, Aspen Daily News, February 19, 2014)