Nature's icy flakes are full of street poisons, so why are they ending up in Don Valley dumps where they're a melt away from toxifying our drinking water? Other cities treat snow piles like hazardous waste - and so should T.O.
Number of snow dumps in Toronto Ten, including two sewer dumping locations
Total capacity of the dumps About 150,000 truckloads
What has environmentalists freaked Several dumps are located on environmentally sensitive land in the Don River Valley, in ravines across the city and along the lakeshore.
Why we should be worried Snow carries a toxic load - higher than acceptable levels of chloride, copper, iron, lead, zinc, oil and grease. We're talking poisonous piles 10 to 15 metres high spread over 2-hectare sites that for three months a year leach a steady stream of toxins into our water supply.
What makes the sites particularly volatile Sudden releases caused by warm spells pick up surface contaminants and wash them into our water supply as well.
Sure signs snow dumps are messing with the environment big time The preponderance of dead trees around the sites and the fact that it's not till September - more than six months after spring has sprung - that plants take root around the dumps.
Why the dumps may actually be illegal They violate the spirit of the city's sewer use bylaw, which prohibits direct discharges of contaminated water into rivers and the lake.
Just how far behind are we? Very. Few meaningful steps have been taken by the city to address the issue, outside of minimal monitoring at half a dozen dumps. • The last time we had a major snowfall (back in 1999), the city seriously considered dumping snow directly into the lake because it had nowhere else to put the white stuff.
What the city has done to address capacity concerns Purchased state-of-the-art snow melters so snow can be melted and discharged directly into the sewer system.
Why that may be worse than dumping Snow melted in this way creates a thermal plume that elevates chloride levels.
What watershed activists are pushing for A central snow disposal site - or several regional sites - that's regulated like a commercial garbage dump and equipped with filters and settling ponds for meltwater "polishing."
Eco-friendly alternatives being used by other cities Wet ponds, which take up between 40 and 60 per cent of sediment and pollutants in meltwater and release them slowly into the water system. • Stormwater wetlands - not to be confused with natural wetlands - that use plants to remove between 40 and 60 per cent of phosphorus and heavy metals.
What the Task Force to Bring Back the Don is proposing Converting the main snow dump in the Don Valley into a wetland to catch stormwater runoff from Moore Park ravine and preserve Chester Springs Marsh wetland downstream.
Why it may be too late for any greening on the sites Salt deposits from snow dumping have probably destroyed the soil's capacity to sustain plant life.