Portland councilor wants to revisit dumping snow in harbor

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PORTLAND — A City Council committee last week rejected revisions to the snow removal ordinance regarding sidewalk shoveling, but the issue is expected to return to a different committee this summer along with the controversial prospect of dumping snow in the harbor.

The Transportation Committee Feb. 15 voted against a motion by Councilor Ed Suslovic to modify snow shoveling rules by allowing the Public Services Department to grant exemptions to certain property owners. At issue were sidewalks along major arterials in the city, where snow is plowed several feet high.

“It is ridiculous in certain circumstances to ask residents to clear that,” Suslovic said. Councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue, however, voted against endorsing changes to the ordinance.

Marshall said Public Services already has discretionary power when determining if someone is in violation of the snow shoveling ordinance. That ordinance requires residents to remove snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours of a storm, or face fines up to $200.

“If they go out and look and the snow is piled 6 feet high, they are not going to fine them,” Marshall said.

Suslovic said he plans to revisit the city’s snow removal rules this summer in the Public Safety Committee, which he chairs. Those rules, he said, include whether the city should consider dumping snow into Portland Harbor.

That practice drew criticism in 2005 because the snow contains road salt and other pollutants. The city now dumps snow from the peninsula either in a lot on Preble Street or on Outer Congress Street.

“I think we should explore if it can be done in a safe way,” Suslovic said. “Running diesel trucks 40 minutes round trip out to Congress Street has an environmental impact, too.”

Suslovic estimated that snow removal for a major storm costs the city about $25,000 a night and said cutting back on the trips to outer Congress Street could save money on fuel and manpower.

Municipalities need a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to dump snow into rivers and the ocean. A bill before the Legislature this session could ease restrictions.

Suslovic suggested the city could put rules in place that only allows snow to be dumped in the harbor within 24 hours of a storm, before debris and runoff saturate the snow.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

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