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This guide will help communities and businesses dispose of plowed snow without harming the environment. The guide includes a link to an interactive map to locate snow disposal sites.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Snow Disposal Guidance offers information on the proper steps to take when locating sites for the disposal of snow. Finding a place to dispose of collected snow poses a challenge to municipalities and businesses as they clear roads, parking lots, bridges, and sidewalks. Public safety is of the utmost importance. However, care must be taken to ensure that collected snow, which may be contaminated with road salt, sand, litter, and automotive pollutants such as oil, is disposed of in a manner that will minimize threats to nearby sensitive resource areas.
In order to avoid potential contamination to wetlands, water supplies, and waterbodies, MassDEP recommends that municipalities and businesses identify and map appropriate upland snow disposal locations. To assist municipalities and businesses in this planning effort, and to avoid use of snow disposal at sites which compromise wetlands resources or public water supplies, MassDEP has developed this snow disposal mapping tool:
If a community or business demonstrates that there is no remaining capacity at upland snow disposal locations, local conservation commissions are authorized to issue Emergency Certifications under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act for snow disposal in certain wetland resource areas. In such cases, Emergency Certifications can only be issued at the request of a public agency or by order of a public agency for the protection of the health or safety of citizens, and are limited to those activities necessary to abate the emergency.
In the event of a regional or statewide severe weather event, MassDEP may also issue a broader Emergency Declaration under the Wetlands Protect Act which allows greater flexibility in snow disposal practices. Details of this approval process are found below.
Effective Date: December 21, 2015
Applicability: Applies to all federal, state, regional and local agencies, as well as to private businesses.
Supersedes: BRP Snow Disposal Guideline No. BRPG01-01 issued March 8, 2001, and all previous snow disposal guidance.
Approved by: Douglas Fine, Assistant Commissioner for Water
PURPOSE: To provide guidelines to all government agencies and private businesses regarding snow disposal site selection, site preparation and maintenance, and emergency snow disposal options that are protective of wetlands, drinking water, and water bodies, and are acceptable to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Bureau of Water Resources.
APPLICABILITY: These Guidelines are issued by MassDEP’s Bureau of Water Resources on behalf of all Bureau Programs (including Drinking Water Supply, Wetlands and Waterways, Wastewater Management, and Watershed Planning and Permitting). They apply to public agencies and private businesses disposing of snow in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Finding a place to dispose of collected snow poses a challenge to municipalities and businesses as they clear roads, parking lots, bridges, and sidewalks. While we are all aware of the threats to public safety caused by snow, collected snow that is contaminated with road salt, sand, litter, and automotive pollutants such as oil also threatens public health and the environment.
As snow melts, road salt, sand, litter, and other pollutants are transported into surface water or through the soil where they may eventually reach the groundwater. Road salt and other pollutants can contaminate water supplies and are toxic to aquatic life at certain levels. Sand washed into waterbodies can create sand bars or fill in wetlands and ponds, impacting aquatic life, causing flooding, and affecting our use of these resources.
There are several steps that communities can take to minimize the impacts of snow disposal on public health and the environment. These steps will help communities avoid the costs of a contaminated water supply, degraded waterbodies, and flooding. Everything we do on the land has the potential to impact our water resources. Given the authority of local government over the use of the land, municipal officials and staff have a critically important role to play in protecting our water resources.
The purpose of these guidelines is to help municipalities and businesses select, prepare, and maintain appropriate snow disposal sites before the snow begins to accumulate through the winter. Following these guidelines and obtaining the necessary approvals may also help municipalities in cases when seeking reimbursement for snow disposal costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is possible.
These snow disposal guidelines address: (1) site selection; (2) site preparation and maintenance; and (3) emergency snow disposal.
1. SITE SELECTION
The key to selecting effective snow disposal sites is to locate them adjacent to or on pervious surfaces in upland areas or upland locations on impervious surfaces that have functioning and maintained storm water management systems away from water resources and drinking water wells. At these locations, the snow meltwater can filter in to the soil, leaving behind sand and debris which can be removed in the springtime. The following areas should be avoided:
Recommended Site Selection Procedures
It is important that the municipal Department of Public Works or Highway Department, Conservation Commission, and Board of Health work together to select appropriate snow disposal sites. The following steps should be taken:
Snow Disposal Mapping Assistance
MassDEP has an online mapping tool to assist municipalities and businesses in identifying possible locations to potentially dispose of snow, should the need arise. The disposal locations depicted on these maps will also aid MassDEP and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency assist communities with snow disposal in the event of severe winter storm emergencies. The tool identifies wetland resource areas, public drinking water supplies and other sensitive locations where snow should not be disposed. The tool may be accessed through the Internet at the following web address:https://maps.env.state.ma.us/dep/arcgis/js/templates/PSF/.
By clicking on the link for the OLIVER Online Data Viewer, communities can select your town and overlay different resource areas. The MassGIS site includes MassDEP orthophoto maps depicting local wetland resources, hard copies of which were mailed to each Conservation Commission in the past.
2. SITE PREPARATION AND MAINTENANCE
In addition to carefully selecting disposal sites before the winter begins, it is important to prepare and maintain these sites to maximize their effectiveness. The following maintenance measures should be undertaken for all snow disposal sites:
3. SNOW DISPOSAL APPROVALS
Proper snow disposal may be undertaken through one of the following approval procedures:
During declared statewide snow emergency events, MassDEP’s website will also highlight the emergency contact phone number (1-888-304-1133) for authorizations and inquiries. For further non-emergency information about this Guidance you may contact your MassDEP Regional Office Service Center:
Northeast Regional Office, Wilmington, 978-694-3249
Southeast Regional Office, Lakeville, 508-946-2714
Central Regional Office, Worcester, 508-767-2722
Western Regional Office, Springfield, 413-784-1100