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Bill would allow towns to dump snow anywhere
REGION -- Between storms, town highway crews are busy removing towering snowbanks to make roads and sidewalks safe, and trucking the piles to snow dumps.
In some of those communities, towns have the added expense of trucking the snow several miles due to
environmental regulations. That's because under state regulations that protect water quality, the snow dumps must be located away from rivers and streams, partly surrounded by silt barriers and, by June 30, cleared of all the trash that gets left behind when the snow melts.
The bill is being sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, and backed by the Maine Municipal Association.
Supporters of the bill believe easing up on restrictions by Environmental Protection will save towns money while others say dumping snow into the state's waterways will damage the environment.
Briggs, who is also the executive secretary in the Mexico Town Office, indicated that she sponsored the bill to review the regulations, not necessarily to abolish them.
However, Mexico Town Manager John Madigan noted the rules cost the town money and don't prevent pollution. Because Mexico is located along the Androscoggin River, he said that when the snow melts, it is going to end up in the river anyway.
The town had been dumping its snow over the banks in front of the town office until the state made them stop that process. For the past ten years, they trucked the snow three or four miles down the road to a site in back of Archie's.That site has carried an annual license fee of $165 to the state.
"They don't have a license for snow dumps. It's actually a waste discharge license because it's over what they call an aquifer recharge area."
Besides the fees, it's costing Mexico additional fuel and time to dispose of its snow. Madigan added another reason the added expense is costly is because "the last two years we've lost over $200,000 in state revenue."
"They're putting pressure on the little towns. It's overkill. The plowed snow goes into ditches and culverts; eventually it's going to go into the river anyway," said Madigan, adding, "the towns should be exempt from having to pay for a permit to dump snow."
He said this got started in the 1980's when the state tried to shut down the Rumford snow dump, when the snow was being pushed over the bank towards the river. "At that time, the state claimed that minute amounts of chemicals were going into the river. They were using a study done at the end of a pier in Montreal at the St. Lawrence River. Years later, they got after Rumford again for its snow dump, located beside the old tennis courts."
Currently, the snow is not pushed over the banking. Instead, it's piled up on the sides.