Overflow snow

Dumped snow at Babcock ParkWhen it snows enough for the City of Northfield to haul it from downtown, it’s dumped at the rodeo grounds and parking lot at Babcock Park adjacent to the dog park. 

After last week’s 11 inches, the lot is now nearly full.  It’s not clear yet whether the snowfall today and tomorrow (Presidents Day) will require downtown snow removal, but let’s assume that we’ll have a few more snow events between now and, um, May. 

Other than hauling it to Vancouver where it’s really needed, where else might the City dump the snow?


  1. Jessica Paxton said:

    I’m not exactly sure where the snow is being hauled to, but I’ve observed big trucks headed east out of town loaded with snow at all hours of the day (and night) via Fourth Street.

    February 15, 2010
  2. kiffi summa said:

    One has to wonder how it can be good environmental practice to load this entire park, right next to the river, with all the removed snow which must be loaded with salt and chemicals that have been put on the streets.

    I much appreciate the way the Downtown is cleared of deep snow piles; but is there another place to put it where the runoff won’t immediately go to the river?

    February 16, 2010
  3. Jane Moline said:

    I really think there is a limited amount of chemicals in the overflow snow–and there is the mitigation of being on a porous surface–the ground will absorb a lot of the chemicals, if there are any in the snow–as opposed to the storm water system (from the street) that creates rapid runoff of chemicals into the river. It is probably a real boon to have the snow piled there.

    We should be much more concerned about the piles of snow at Target/Cub, where they have paved such a large amount that there is rapid runoff of melting in the spring–directly to the cannon river. This contributes to flooding downstream.

    February 16, 2010
  4. john george said:

    Jane- I think you haved a very good point in the hard surface areas. I can’t find the link right now, but My son was telling me about some research he did in one of his Landscape Architecture courses about snow/rainwater run-off. If I remeber correctly, there has been about 450,000 square miles of hardsurface applied to areas of our country, mainly urban, in the last century. This has caused much of the flooding problems that have arisen. When soil is allowed to absorb the moisture that falls on it, it slows the rise of the associated rivers. We sometimes create our own havoc just for our own convenience. I’m not advocating returning to dirt roads, by any means. I grew up on them, but the new trend of building collecting basins between urban areas and rivers is bound to help slow and filter this run-off.

    February 16, 2010
  5. Phil Poyner said:

    John, I’ve seen a report out of the U of MN that observes that 70% of the road salt used in the Minneapolis metro area ends up in the watershed (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090210125424.htm). I wonder if the hard surfaces in the urban areas add to that percentage, or whether we would get similar numbers regardless of location in the state. If the latter were true, it would seem that it doesn’t make a difference where we put the removed snow…at least from an environmental perspective.

    February 16, 2010
  6. john george said:

    Phil- That’s a very interesting article. It coincides with some of the information my son was telling me about. I think there is some research going on with using drainage basins with plant filters between the run-off and rivers. There are some plants being studied for their properties to survive brackish waters and filter out NaCl. I’ll see if I can find some links on that.

    February 16, 2010
  7. john george said:

    Phil- I got an answer back from my son. Plants are being used as a filter for run-off, but they mainly slow the water down enough for the silt to settle out before it gets to the water body. Fertilizer adheres to the silt, and is used up by the plants rather than feeding algae blooms in the water. Salt will settle out, also, but it is not absorbed. He has heard that the best way to get rid of the salt is to flush it out with more water, hopefully diluting it to unharmful levels. But since salt does not decompose, it does build up in the environment. Interesting problems we create for ourselves just for convenience. Perhaps there is a business opportunity awaiting someone who can come up with a cost effective process to reclaim the salt.

    February 17, 2010
  8. Phil Poyner said:

    John, I suspected that might be the case. That certainly goes along with the article’s conclusion, which seems to imply that the only way to reduce NaCl levels in the watershed was to reduce the amount of road salt used. Fortunately, it looks like the Minnesota Polution Control Agency gives training outlining some of the best management practices (BMPs) for the application of road salt, so maybe the different municipalities are getting better at achieving the most bang for the buck (both literally and environmentally) when it comes to its use.

    February 17, 2010
  9. Mike Moyer said:

    Those trucks heading east on Wall St. are unloading snow at the William and Carrie Quinnell property just East of town.I was curious so I followed one.

    February 17, 2010
  10. Jane,
    Only the older parts of town drain stormsewer directly to the river. I believe the Target/Cub snow will melt to the stormwater retention pond at Honeylocust and S. Hwy 3. I doubt any significant amount would make it to the river.

    The Babcock snow, you’re right, will probably mostly be filtered by the ground, but I can’t imagine the presence of deicing materials does much for the soil in Babcock Park.

    However, salt pollution is salt pollution regardless of where you dump it. It seems the question ought to be exactly how much salt is the City using — and could they eliminate it?

    February 18, 2010
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for that citizen investigative report, Mike!

    February 19, 2010

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