By Petitcodiac Riverwatcher Georges Brun
Editing: Monique Arsenault
On one of my recent patrols this past month, I discovered a pile of snow near the traffic circle on Moncton’s West Main Street (at the entrance of the old city dump), which could cause serious problems for the ecosystem of the marshes surrounding this area.
Known as the Causeway Snow Storage facility, the site is used by the municipality for snow removal operations in the downtown area. It is located immediately southeast of the West Main Street traffic circle. The Petitcodiac River is located approximately 600 metres south of the causeway site. The area between the disposal site and the river is occupied by marsh. This marsh is mapped as a Provincially Significant Wetland by the New Brunswick Department of the Environment. As such, to protect water quality, the Province has recommended that the City of Moncton maintain a buffer between the snow pile and the marsh.
The Causeway snow storage facility currently has a colossal mound of snow, the result of this past winter, which is filled with waste and gravel. Given the amount of snow that is here, the buffer has not been respected. Petitcodiac Riverkeeper was worried that this huge mound of snow, which is melting slowly, would have negative repercussions on the surrounding wetland.
You can see the snow dump’s vastness here thanks to Google Maps. The snow pile (shown in brown) is located near a pond (shown in green), which is part of the marshes and wetlands surrounding the Petitcodiac River.
Snow pile, seen from afar.
RiverWatcher Georges Brun on top of the mound of snow. Also visible are the large pond and surrounding wetland nearby.
The snow pile is huge and will therefore take a long time to melt. As you can see in the photos below, it is filled with waste and gravel. The winds often carry the trash to neighbouring areas, polluting and harming the fragile wetland habitat nearby.
Snowmelt runoff can contain significant amounts of contaminants such as petroleum hydrocarbons, metals, chloride and heavy sediments. The gravel and the contaminants could make their way into the adjacent pond and marsh where many birds such as Canada Geese, Green-winged Teals and Song Sparrows live and nest.
Petitcodiac Riverkeeper thus alerted the City and made the following recommendations:
1- We recommend that the City of Moncton send a team to pick up litter found on snow dump before the wind starts making trash fall in the surrounding marshes. We also recommend putting a fence around the dump to prevent the trash from being blown away.
2 – We recommend the City of Moncton send a bulldozer to push the gravel back so it does not fall into the marsh as well as to break up the ice so that the snow melts faster.
3 – We recommend placing signs on the site in order to properly define the wetland protection zone, which should be respected at all times.
Representatives from the City of Moncton assured us that they would take action immediately and have started to implement some of our recommendations. They have installed geotextile near the snow pile to help capture garbage and prevent it from being blown off site towards the walking trail, wetland, and the Petitcodiac River. Additionally, municipal staff were instructed to pick up the garbage in the snow. For security reasons, sending a bulldozer or excavator is just not feasible for now.
The City monitors surface water quality each spring at each of its snow storage facilities. It assures us that in past years, contaminants that can be found in street snow have historically been below the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Freshwater Aquatic Life.
We have also been assured that next year (winter of 2014-15), the buffer will be staked to ensure that snow is not deposited beyond the buffer area. Municipal staff will be educated to respect this buffer area and it will be clearly identified.
We thank the City of Moncton for its prompt reply. We would like to especially thank Melissa Lee who came to inspect the site with us and implemented our recommendations.
Melissa Lee also invited us to visit the new Berry Mills mega site, which will be used as a snow dump in the future by the City of Moncton. It is a unique, one-of-a-kind project in Atlantic Canada.
This modern snow storage facility will reduce the negative effects of snowmelt on the surrounding environment thanks to a buffer zone and conduit. The City of Moncton, in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, plans to build four basins, which will filter the water melting off the snow pile, thereby minimizing its impact on the fauna and flora of the adjacent wetlands.
We will keep our members and the community informed of developments on this project.