“When the snows melt”


File image courtesy AFP.

Winter is passing and there are signs that spring is coming to the northern hemisphere. But for University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) environmental chemist Torsten Meyer, springtime has a two peaked dark side.

There are two peak con­t­a­m­i­nant releases from the melt­ing snow pack: “one at the begin­ning of the melt period involv­ing water sol­u­ble chem­i­cals, and one at the end involv­ing par­ti­cle asso­ci­ated chemicals.”is the dark murky side of springtime snow melt pollution.

“During the winter months, contaminants accumulate in the snow and …when the snow melts, these chemicals are released into the environment at high concentrations.”

In a specially designed, temperature-controlled laboratory at UTSC-which includes a homemade snow-gun and a chemical pump-Meyer creates large baths of fresh snow already tainted with organic contaminants.

This one-of-a-kind set-up enables the researcher to slowly melt his “dirty” snow, collect the melt-water and track which chemicals emerge from the snow pack and when.

Meyer’s research reveal:

The spring peak contaminant flush at the very beginning of the melt,…that comes with a deluge of pollution.

When the snow turns black with muck and grime, many harmful chemicals – including those from pesticides, car exhaust, telecommunications wiring insulation, water repellent clothing, paints or coatings – may have already seeped out of the snow and into the surrounding ground water or surface water.

Challenges:

How can municipalities choose their snow dump sites to avoid the rush of pollutants?

How can aquatic organisms and amphibians, fish and invertebrates be protected are at a vulnerable stage of their life cycles during the spring snow melt flush?

Suggestions anyone?

Excerpts and Image courtesy of   http://bit.ly/f3O3x9

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