Duluth knows how to do snow removal, but where does it all go?

I was very impressed to happen upon this epic snow removal operation on Second Street on Thursday at about 11 a.m.

You might be able to see in the photo that this clean-up convoy of sorts includes numerous heavy construction vehicles stretching from where this was taken at about Second Avenue East, all the way back to Fourth Avenue West.

First, the bobcats and these road graders push the snow out of the gutters, and off of the sidewalks wherever possible. But what I really wanted to get was a pic of the next step in the operation. A monster snow crusher attachment that looks like a snowblower, only it’s 15 feet tall and at least half as wide is placed on the front of the snow plow to feed the white brown stuff into a fleet of dump trucks. It’s like a dance that’s choreographed by people in carharts and hard hats, only without the music, and if the dancers were outfitted by Cat … ok, maybe it’s not a dance. But regardless, seeing this really got the kid in me all giddy.

I’m impressed with how they were able to clear the sidewalks of tons of snow in a couple of hours. I’m not sure how many city workers were involved, but I’m guessing about 20 or 30, there was even a police car on hand to slow down traffic. It’s a huge undertaking to move tons of snow. Or is that hundreds of tons of snow?

But one thing I wonder, is where does it go? Sure, it’s snow, but it’s dirty snow. Dirty, potentially polluted snow. A season or two filtering through some gravelly wetlands would probably clean it up a bit before it hits the Lake, but, then wouldn’t that pollute the wetlands? I’m asking.

I look to you, PDD brain trust for the answer to that question and any other insight into how to handle our heavy snow accumulation (and to make room for more that will come in our snowiest months of February, March and (in 2013, at least) April.


Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

There was a bit of controversy about this three years ago. At the time, city crews hauled the dirty road snow to a spot on the harbor next to the Lafarge cement terminal, and also to the old Atlas Cement property in Morgan Park. As far as I know, those are still the two places where they take it.

This is of concern because the snow melts and road salt works its way into the harbor and St. Louis River. Of course, that will happen no matter where the snow is chucked, and hauling it farther away would cost more money, which is why there has been no change in the plan.

Jim Richardson

about 10 years ago

I'm sure I don't know but I don't imagine it's all that polluted. Dirty yes. Traces of common environmental contaminants yes. But too polluted to dump somewhere? It can't be much worse than your average rainfall runoff and that goes into the lake all the time, and the lake is still pretty clean all things considered. Happy to be wrong, just guessing.

Jim Richardson

about 10 years ago

Oh right the salt.


about 10 years ago

Well, the city has spent a lot of effort trying to reduce the amount of salt used. 

But until we have the technology to completely eliminate salt usage, we have to do something with it. 

Ideally it would be great if we could dump the salty snow into a series of sun-soaked vats that allow for the snow to evaporate and leave behind the salt and sand to be reused next year. 

But that would open up another can of worms with the build up of various contaminants in the evaporation tanks.


about 10 years ago

Some of it gets dumped in the "Morningside Pits" off Jean Duluth Rd, between Jean Duluth and Vermillion past the snowmobile trail. Most of it would melt into Amity Creek.


about 10 years ago

I wonder if the concentration isn't enough to cause much trouble, similar to the usage of salt in water softeners.


about 10 years ago

There appear to be many large piles under the freeway in the area of 21st Ave West as well. Not sure if those are city piles or not.


about 10 years ago

I believe Duluth also uses chemical deicers in addition to just salts... What are those, something like windshield wiper fluid or Windex?

The stuff scraped off the roads probably also includes a fair amount of condensed auto exhaust.

Not much we can do about it, I suppose. Perhaps a change to a more environmentally friendly deicing solution like beet sugar? I bet that would cause it's own problems. 

All in all the city does an amazing job of making travel and a normal life possible here in the winter... Just witness what happens down south when they get like, a quarter inch of slush.

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Read previous post:
Minnesota Wine Exchange closing?

Did Minnesota Wine Exchange go out of business? Or is it just changing locations?  I bought a half-price gift certificate...