If you live in a mid-Atlantic state you have probably seen crews tackling the huge job of removing more than 36 inches of snow that fell during two blizzards. In a city like Baltimore, packed with houses, cars, businesses and sidewalks, where do you put all that snow? For this very unusual snow situation, Baltimore has turned to a very unusual option: after getting the required permission from the Maryland Department of the Environment, they have dumped snow into the Harbor.
This has raised questions and debate about whether dumping the salt-laden snow into the Harbor will damage the health of the Harbor or affect the Bay. The answer is yes, but the reason may surprise you.
Dumping snow in the Harbor increases the pollution, but interestingly, dumping snow won’t necessarily be more environmentally harmful than a series of heavy storms. We are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where all precipitation – including melted snow – runs into storm drains, and eventually into the Harbor and the Bay. Along the way, that water picks up pollutants – dirt, oil, car exhaust and other sources – as it flows across our yards, sidewalks, roofs, driveways and streets into the nearest storm drain and downstream to the Harbor. Even melted snow or rain from surrounding counties makes its way to storm drains that all lead to the Harbor. This water does not go through some kind of water purifying system before it goes into the Harbor. It goes straight into the Harbor with its pollutants, trash and debris.