Snow more: DSNY begins melting storm remnants

A Department of Sanitation worker stands atop a melter as snow is dumped inside.
Photo by Dean Moses

The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is clearing the 17-19 inches of snow piles left by this week’s nor’easter with snow melters in anticipation for the additional snowfall expected this coming week.

On Feb. 4, DSNY Commissioner Edward Grayson showcased the full power of the snow melters during a demonstration on Broad Street and Water Street. These mammoth machines are peppered around the boroughs of New York City to aid with the immense cleanup effort ahead of sanitation employees.  

Grayson shared that many concerned citizens often ask him what DSNY does with the mountains of snow left throughout the city after major storms. Gesturing to the strident vehicles at work behind him, he stated: “What do [we] do with the snow? This is what we do with it. We station these melters on top of an approved DEP sewage line, and the output goes to a water treatment center.”

A large snow pile is dumped into a melter Broad Street and Water Street. Photo by Dean Moses

Stockpiles of snow are unloaded into the melters where the ice chunks become a rapid flow of water. According to the DSNY, there are seven of these machines located city-wide, each with the capacity to melt 60 to 120 tons of snow per hour. Upon melting, the water is transferred into an approved DEP sewage line that will be sent to a water treatment center.

The snow is transformed into water. Photo by Dean Moses

Earlier this week the city experienced the worst blizzard since 2016. With so much snowfall, DSNY workers have been laboring tirelessly in order to maintain and stay ahead of the problematic sleet, ice, and overall slushy mess.

“These men and women have been doing an epic job working around the clock since Sunday and I couldn’t be prouder in what they have been able to do with this event,” Grayson said, adding that with almost 19 inches of snow battering parts of the city, the dig out continues.

With DSNY’s staff split between snow cleanup and catching up on refuse pickup, the DSNY says they are severely outstretched and expect delays in some of their services, chief of which being recyclable pickups. Grayson shared that there are about 300 to 400 snow laborers attempting to clear city sidewalks, fire hydrants, bike lanes, and dedicating hours of hand shoveling attention to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers all around the city.

DSNY Commissioner Edward Grayson explains the snow melting process. Photo by Dean Moses

One request Grayson is making of property owners is that they attempt to clear their business sites so that customers and passersby can walk through safely. However, he implores those undertaking this task to refrain from tossing the snow into bike lanes, which he says does a disservice for the DSNY laborers who worked to clear the lanes for cyclists.

“It’s been a heavy snowfall, so if you go out there and shovel please be careful. Take extra time, take extra breaks, but we definitely need you to do your part and we will continue to do ours,” Grayson affirmed.

Grayson also warns that while the DSNY has been cleaning up snow mounds and dispersing salt, at night, with colder temperatures, there are risks of ice patches forming in areas where snow might have melted during the day.

The scene from atop a snow melter. Photo by Dean Moses