SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Temperatures are in the 80s the week of May 17 in Sioux Falls, and while leaves are unfolding on trees and grass is growing high, snow remains on the ground, at least in a few places in Sioux Falls.
The most notable of these places is the snow pile south of the Lyons Fairgrounds, where the pile still rises more than two stories high.
However, that pile is hardly recognizable as the off-white monstrosity we got used to throughout the winter. Now, it’s a little muddy and, frankly, slimy.
Believe it or not, there is actually snow under all that dirt and debris, trust me — I checked.
On top of that snow though is a thick skin of dirt, mud, plant matter and garbage. Lots of garbage; all of which came off of Sioux Falls’ City Streets.
Plastic bags, tin cans, and dozens of tiny little liquor shooter bottles were in sight as I strolled through the muck, as well as larger items like chucks of wood, a foot long spring and even a portion of a manhole cover frame.
Daniel Whipple, Sioux Falls Street Maintenance Supervisor, explained that while this process leads to a lot of trash on the ground, the city has worked to ensure it stays contained to the site.
“There’s a lot of material we pick up besides snow off the street in the year, and we take good caution when we set up these dump sites to make sure we’re filtering that material so it doesn’t get into our water systems,” Whipple said.
Vegetation is used as a sort of barrier at the perimeter of dump sites, allowing water to flow through while trapping trash and debris. In some areas, rock dams are also used to either block water or to catch debris.
In addition to this, the entire site is planned out prior to the winter, with the ground gently graded, sloping slightly to ensure all meltwater goes to an assigned point, and allowing most trash to simply drop to the ground.
Once the snow is all gone, which will be determined by digging into the pile to see whether you turn up dirt or ice, the entire area will be cleared.
“We’ll scrape off a bit of the top[soil] and haul that all out to the landfill,” Whipple said. “As part of that, we make sure to do the grading — it’s all sloped to make sure they’re going to those filters.”
In the course of cleaning out the site, Whipple gave a ballpark estimate of around 30 truck-loads of dirt that will be removed from the area and taken to the dump.
As for the melting process, the pile is about halfway gone, but Whipple said it may be some time before it disappears, noting that the immediate melt happens quickly, but that the process slows down as a coating of sediment and trash encases the snow, insulating it from warming temperatures.
When will it be gone? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. Whipple himself, guessed August 1 when I asked him, though he says others have speculated that it may be September. I’m guessing the 3rd week of July, personally.
The amount of trash in the mix simply cannot be overstated. It is the single thing that stands out most as you walk across the site, nearly impossible not to step on.
“It just kind of shows the importance of us all collectively cleaning up, making sure to pick up the trash, and the importance of our summer operations sweeping the streets and making sure that the roads are clean,” said Whipple.