The city of Waterville has had a total of 79.2 inches — six and a half feet — of snow so far this winter, according to the National Weather Service.
Skowhegan and most of Somerset County has had more than 100 inches, or more than eight feet.
So what happens to all that snow after the plow drivers have pushed it into banks and piles?
“We’ll start picking it up tonight,” Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said Thursday.
“We’ll have time to get everything plowed and cleaned up and get home to get a break and come back in the morning at 1 o’clock to pick up the downtown area.”
Dore said highway crews use a road grader to pull the snowbanks out into rows in the street. A large municipal snowblower then blows the stuff into dump trucks, while another crew uses a bucket loader to scoop up the corners, intersections and the municipal parking lot.
In Skowhegan the snow is trucked to three sites, Dore said. One is behind the town’s recycling center at the transfer station, the other is a vacant lot on Pine Street, off West Front Street, and it’s also dumped on open fields around the town Recreation Center.
“It’s probably a third more snow than an average year — maybe more,” Dore said of this year’s storms. “The other thing is that it hasn’t melted at all. In years past you had at least some melting, but this year’s it’s been so cold.”
Because removed snow picks up pollutants from motor vehicles, sand and salt and other unwanted material, state regulations govern how municipalities or private operators can dump snow, according to Jessamine Logan, communications director at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Maine’s snow dump rules went into effect in 1988 and were updated in 2012.
Snow dumps cannot be on wetlands or surface water, Logan said. They must be 500 feet from the normal high water mark of any great pond or river impoundment and 75 feet from the high water line of any the state’s rivers, streams and drainage basins.
Waterville once had its snow dump by the Kennebec River near Head of Falls, which had a silt fence. Highway crews now use city land behind the Guilford Transportation railway yard off College Avenue.
“It’s quite a ways off from the river,” Public Works Director Mark Turner said. “Plus we have a licensed DEP containment area — snow dump — that is monitored. It’s a fully contained drainage area for water only. Sand, solids and debris are cleaned up later.”
Turner said the city uses a DEP approved area because the site already was monitored and continues to be tested because of contaminants from railroad operations, which were removed or partially buried.
Other locations such as hospitals and shopping centers are required to make their own arraignments for snow removal. Diane Peterson, spokeswoman for MaineGeneral Medical Center, said the new Alfond Center for Health in Augusta was designed with snow removal in mind.
“When we designed it, we asked for a special place that we could put the snow,” she said. “It’s out behind the garage on the property — it’s spread out a little bit, but it’s probably 12 to 16 feet high.”
At the Thayer Center for Health in Waterville, where there no longer are inpatient services, snow is pushed and piled at the perimeter of the parking areas, Peterson said.
Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation said state plow operators work to clear the Interstate and other U.S. routes, pushing snow well off the roads to allow for drainage once the storm is over and temperatures eventually warm. It’s 20 feet back on the Interstate and 12 or 13 feet on state routes, he said.
“You want to have the proper drainage — catch basins and so forth — there’s so much snow on top of those, what we do is push it back,” Talbot said. “If crews are doing some specific work in front of businesses or residences, chances are there’s a drainage catch basin nearby and you have to clear that. The whole philosophy is for proper drainage so we don’t have standing water.”