Mountain of dirty snow threatens Lake Mendota

Dubbed "Mt. Walker," a glacier of garbage threatens nearby waters.

Out by Picnic Point on the UW Campus, there's a mountain of dirty snow 3 stories high.  The snow is trucked there from parking lots around the UW Campus, after major storms.

It's filthy--loaded with "salt, nutrients, oil, sand, silt, litter, heavy metals and toxic chemicals." 

This UW site doesn't conform with the best practices for dumping snow.  Best sites allow for containment of the litter and slow release of the waters.  Sites should be "on lands that drain to detention basins, which capture... pollutants that otherwise might reach... surface waters or soak into groundwater."  Source.

There is no sediment fence separating it from the wetland.
The dirty runoff is pumped from the ditch directly into Lake Mendota.

Salt can be very harmful to aquatic life.  Salty water is more dense, so it sinks to the bottom and remains concentrated, where it can affect the balance and health of a lake.

Use of salt by the UW

In the winter of 2009-10, the University planned to use approximately 500 tons* of road salt.  It's "not the same as table salt. It comes unpurified straight out of the salt mines and it contains heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic in trace minerals and then ferryocyanide, a carcinogen, is cut in to act as an anti-caking agent...." Source

According to a 1999 UW report, "...the University has made significant progress in some areas of salt reduction. Since 1995, "No Plow, No Salt" areas have been designated, removal equipment has been improved, Physical Plant’s sand mixture has been reformulated, and salt alternatives have been tried. In addition, a low berm was constructed between the 1918 Marsh and the snow storage area to prevent salt-contaminated runoff from entering the Marsh."

What I saw calls into question the accuracy of that report.  If a berm was present, it was buried under the snow--totally inadequate for the amount of snow dumped this year.

A long history of dumping--former students report

In the late 1960s, the University Farms used to dump manure here from the nearby barn.  The Ecology Student's Association caught the University Power Plant dumping many truckloads of fly ash here.  The students found the University didn't have a permit from the DNR, so the UW was forced to stop.

Dumping of snow here has been going on for at least 20 years.

More photos here:
The face on Mt. Walker here.
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*  A UW contract specified they might use as much as 750 tons.

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