Why the Halifax Port Authority gets to dump snow in the harbour

Halifax does not plan to get rid of excess snow by dumping it in the harbour, despite the port authority continuing to do so. City spokesman Brendan Elliott said the municipality was advised by Environment Canada not to dump snow into the water, citing the Fisheries Act.

Halifax doesn't dump snow in harbour because of Fisheries Act, but port authority has its own jurisdiction

A CBC News camera captured video of snow being dumped into the harbour Monday. (Rob Short/CBC)

Halifax does not plan to get rid of excess snow by dumping it in the harbour, despite the port authority continuing to do so. The municipality has no control over what the port authority does because it is under federal jurisdiction. 

City spokesman Brendan Elliott said the municipality was advised by Environment Canada not to dump snow into the water, citing the Fisheries Act.

"It's safe to assume the kind of debris we collect in the course of gathering snow, whether it be salt or sand, traces of gasoline, oils — all of that would be considered dangerous to the environment, especially to fish," he said.

City finds other ways

Section 36 of the Fisheries Act does not specifically mention snow but it states that throwing certain substances overboard is prohibited, including ballast, coal ashes, stones or "other deleterious substances in any river, harbour or roadstead, or in any water where fishing is carried on."

Elliott said the municipality has half a dozen designated spots where it takes excess snow.

The Halifax Port Authority dumps snow from its 105 hectares of federal property into the harbour. (Rob Short/CBC)

"We're very careful to ensure the dumping places that we do have around the city are places where, when the snow melts, there's a filtration system in place to ensure that none of the gasoline or the traces of oil would seep into the ground," he said.

Municipality doesn't tell port what to do

Elliott said the municipality doesn't try to interfere with how the Halifax Port Authority gets rid of its extra snow.

The port authority said it has long been dumping snow from its 105 hectares of federal land, including the ocean terminals, Richmond Terminals and the Halifax Seaport, into the harbour.

"We do have the jurisdiction and the ability to decide how we handle the snow removal process and that is what our process is," said spokesman Lane Farguson.

Snow finds its way to the harbour

"Most of our land is either paved or cobblestones and so during normal freeze-thaw cycles, that snow will melt and eventually find its way into the harbour anyway."

Farguson said the snow is moved to the harbour once "piles become substantial."

"We do our best to keep the areas we have jurisdiction over as clear as we possibly can and a lot of times that process works very, very well."

With files from David Burke