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Snow melt runoff

December 19, 2017

Snowmelt runoff often has a higher concentration of pollutants. Impervious surfaces do not allow the runoff to infiltrate into the soil. The runoff is influenced primarily by rubbish, pavement erosion, emissions from vehicles, and road de-icing. Pollutants are accumulated in the snowpack and then released intermittently.


The inorganic constituents of snowmelt runoff in urban areas indicates the components could pose a potential environmental threat.  Studies show snowpack has concentrations of inorganic ions such as chloride, phosphate, nitrate and ammonium, heavy metals (HM) – Pb, Cu, Mn, Zn, Fe, Ni, Cr – as well as total suspended solids (TSS).

TSS and chloride ions are the main pollutants in the snowmelt runoff.  Areas with the heaviest traffic and the most intensive salting and snow removal are at risk as the applied reagents are readily washed away.

Suspended solids can absorb pollutants on their surface and then release them on entering the receiving waters, causing long-term pollution effects. The elevated TSS levels alter natural sedimentation processes in watercourses and can result in increased turbidity, depletion of dissolved oxygen, inhibition of benthic aerobic microorganisms and impairment of photosynthesis


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