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Where to pile all that record snowfall from January? DEQ weighs in

It was a snowy January in Michigan; the snowiest on record for Flint and Detroit, according the the National Weather Service.

“We’ve had our fair share too, that’s for sure,” said Jared Sanders, assistant district supervisor of the Kalamazoo district’s water resources division. The division is a part of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.

I can vouch for it; huge piles of plowed snow are filling up the parking lots of many businesses here in Grand Rapids too.

Plenty of crews have been running out of places to stash the snow, once it’s plowed off the streets, sidewalks and parking lots.

Sanders says crews need to be careful where they pile the snow because it can have all kinds of trash, cigarette butts and other pollutants mixed in.

“There’s oil, gas, things that spill on the road surface or the parking lot; de-icing agents and salt. I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as toxic but certainly stuff that we don’t want to put into our rivers and lakes and streams,” Sanders said.

State regulations require snow piles to be kept away from wells or well-head-protection areas that supply drinking water.

Wetlands and flood plains should also be avoided because the water could overwhelm the area when the snow melts.

Sanders says the best places are those that drain into retention ponds designed for runoff. Otherwise, Sanders says grassy areas (not including park or playgrounds) are good because the soil can help absorb and filter the snow once it melts.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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