Last weekend’s heavy snowfall, coupled with the Valtteri blizzard that descended on the country the previous Saturday, has resulted in copious amounts of snow piling up around the Helsinki region. City authorities had cleared away over 34,000 truckloads of snow from the streets by Monday. Last week, at its peak, the volume of snow removed reached 5,000 truckloads per day.
While this fell to below a thousand over the weekend, the city’s existing snow disposal facilities have proved inadequate. Winter maintenance staff generally plough snow to the side of the street to ensure that walkways and roads are clear. These snow banks are then transported to snow dumping sites. Helsinki currently has eight official snow dumping sites, located in Herttoniemi, Kivikko, Kyläsaari, Malmi, Maununneva, Oulunkylä, Viikki and Vuosaari.
In addition to these, city contractors can also transport ploughed snow to temporary sites in Mäntymäki, Etelä-Haaga, Kruunuvuori and Suutarila. The snow is brought to these additional locations in urgent situations where streets have to be cleared immediately to allow traffic, and the official areas do not suffice. The transported snow is not left there to melt, however, but has to be cleared away as soon as possible. “We had to use temporary sites because there aren’t enough official snow dumping sites. The distance to the sites should be shorter to ensure that things go smoothly,” says Tarja Myller, who works with the City of Helsinki’s street maintenance department.
In addition to eight permanent sites and several temporary ones, city maintenance authorities also dump snow directly into the sea at Hernesaari. This allows them to avoid transporting snow over long distances and ensures that inner city streets can be up and running quickly. However, the practice of dumping snow into the sea has raised several environmental concerns and criticism, as debris and pollution enter the ocean when the snow melts. City officials constructed a 500-metre-long protective barrier along the coast of the Hernesaari snow dumping site a year ago to minimise environmental damage.
However, the barrier sustained some damages following last week’s strong winds and is now in need of repair. According to Myller, while the Hernesaari site is an effective means of disposing of snow, the city is still in the process of determining whether the barrier is effective and whether it should pursue other methods of preventing snow debris from entering the sea. She also draws attention to the environmental impact that transporting snow outside of the main city area would have in terms of carbon emissions from trucks. In 2019, the City Council of Helsinki approved an initiative to stop dumping snow into the sea in the near future.
Source: YLE NEWS