News / Ottawa

Illegal snowbanks an “epidemic,” city says

Private snow piles are being left for the city to clean up, the city’s roads manager says.

A snow pile blocks the sidewalk on Huron Avenue in Wellington West.

Metro File

A snow pile blocks the sidewalk on Huron Avenue in Wellington West.

An “epidemic” of rogue snowpiles is blocking city plow operators from doing their job, according to roads manager Luc Gagné.

Some plow operators are dumping snow onto city sidewalks when they clear private parking lots and laneways, Gagné said, which is slowing down city sidewalk machines which have to carve through unexpected snowbanks or abandon the cause altogether.

On Huron Avenue in Wellington West, for example, a snowbank completely blocked the sidewalk behind Wild Willy’s floral shop, which shares a rear parking lot with Fab Baby Gear. Sidewalk plows opted to go around, leaving pedestrians no choice but to walk on the road.

“You can’t get through it. How do you get through that big mound?” Gagné said.

This “massive problem” is largely contained in the core, Gagné said.

While the city’s Use and Care of Roads bylaw prohibits snow dumping, there’s little way to enforce the rules.

“We have to have a witness to corroborate the dump happened,” Gagné said.

His team is talking to businesses and private plow owners to remind them of the bylaw.

The public works department got the brunt of residents’ anger after as many as 25 centimetres fell over 14 hours on Dec. 29.  

There were about nine centimetres on the ground before residential streets saw any relief. The city’s snow clearing standards say residential streets should be cleared at seven centimetres.

The city is currently reviewing those standards, which auditor general Ken Hughes said in November go above and beyond provincial minimums.

Gagné said he has not been told to lower clearing standards ahead of the review, which is due this spring.

“We’re staying with the standards that we have,” he said.