Austin Snow Pile May Harm The Environment

By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

AUSTIN, Minn. (WCCO) — The streets in Austin, Minn., are clear of snow after a record winter, but now area conservationists worry the plowing has created a new problem.

For years the city of Austin has dumped all of the downtown snow in Marcusen Park. However, this year the snow is stacked higher than ever, as high as a two story building.

“It’s actually quite a bit smaller than it was a few days ago,” said Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm, referring to the brief warm up last week. “The concern is that when this melts, if it melts fast, it could add to the flooding problems we’ve had.”

The Cedar River is just steps away from the snow pile. On average the mayor says it floods every four years, although not historically in the spring.

Yet the Cedar River Watershed District worries the salt, sand, and garbage in the snow pile is headed straight for the water and wildlife, and the board says it could be harmful.

The city put in concrete barriers and fencing to prevent the run off from heading into the Cedar River, but Council Member Marian Clennon said that is not the case everywhere.

“I’m concerned about this going downstream,” said Clennon, who says the city’s second dumping site off of Oakland Avenue doesn’t have fencing.

Clennon and the Cedar River watershed board want the snow moved away from the water.

“Usually this whole area is under water when the water comes up,” Clennon said.

Mayor Stiehm is now calling for a study. He says it would cost the city around $100,000 to move the pile.

“Of course with budget constraints and everything…who wants to spend $100,000 for another site if it’s not going to make a difference?” Stiehm said.

For some, the debate isn’t about winter; it’s about the seasons to come.

The Cedar River Watershed District will revisit the issue at the meeting next month. It is considering two possible new areas for the snow pile – either near the airport, or on the site of a former KFC restaurant.

  • Bob

    Well I guess spend $5,000.00 for a study. By the time they get done with the study it will be gone. Mute point. What a waste of time and money. Every city and town has the same problem. It has to go some where. Buy one of those huge evaporators and start melting it little by little.

    • fgt

      “Moot” point, Bob. Not “mute” Mute means unable to speak, moot means pointless. Must have graduated from a public schrool.

      • Pate

        And all public school graduates are idiots?

      • Mike

        fgt- You must have graduated from one of those divisive private schools.

  • vioeltray

    Has anyone ever though about using clean trash trucks and moving the snow to the local dumps? It can not hurt the dump pits

  • Raymond P. VinZant violetray

    just a passing thought Recycle Trucks would work too.

  • Paul

    Pate and fgt are showing their lacking educational instruction by making those idiot remarks!!! Take the log out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck from others!!….

    • Mike

      Thanks Paul for your patronizing sermon, which essentially places you in the same position as Pate, fgt and I. Your welcome.

  • travis

    can we all pledge to be a little less snarky to others online…. the world is getting disgusting. Every story is going to have two sides… and everyone on the other side of yours isn’t your enemy.

  • william

    Regardless of where the snow is it will melt. If it is in the watershed district the runoff will still go to the same spot. Perhaps then they shouldn’t be using salt or sand, or leave the snow downtown. Maybe they should not plow at all and issue snowshoes at the city limits.

  • mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM

    Global Warming theory at best

  • Pmil

    Don’t move it, Melt it.

    There’s your study.

    Cost: Free

  • lisa

    Pay me the $100,000.00 and I’ll move it!

  • tom

    I must be the only idiot here. Can someone please explain to me how this pile of snow, sand, salt, and garbage is different than previous years? Why all of a sudden is it an issue now? If there’s concern about the environment, how about cleaning the streets so you don’t have garbage laying around. Or how about hiring someone to walk around the snow pile a couple hours a day on melting days and pick out the garbage as it’s exposed. $5000 could easily cover the cost. Why do we always have to have “a study”?

  • mark from MNTAXWASTE.COM

    And we wonder why this State has no money

  • bod

    The problem is due to the size of the snow pile and the proximity to the river. Two problems: 1) The mayor is concerned that a fast melt will put an unusually large amount of water in the river, adding to flooding potential. 2) The Watershed District is concerned that with a fast melt the runoff will get directly into the river without being filtered by going through the soil.

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