City of Ottawa targets illegal snow dumping

The City of Ottawa's by-law department lays charges, sends letters reminding contractors not to leave snow on city sidewalks or medians

City seeks higher fines, reminds contractors to follow rules

The City of Ottawa is sending out letters to remind private contractors that it's illegal to push snow onto public sidewalks or roads. The current $105 fine also applies to residents. (CBC)

The City of Ottawa has laid six charges against private contractors for illegally dumping snow on public sidewalks or blowing it into roadways, and is investigating more complaints, said the chair of the transportation committee Tuesday.

"Every time somebody does that — puts the snow in the sidewalk or on the median — that just means more work for city staff, more costs for the city, more costs for the taxpayer," said Coun. Keith Egli, following a debrief on the city's response to the Dec. 29 snowstorm.

The by-law department is also sending out letters to all licensed snow plow contractors in Ottawa reminding them of the law. In extreme cases, licences could be suspended or even revoked. By-law officers also intend to step up enforcement during the next big snowfall.

Egli said the city will also ask Ontario government for the right to raise the fine for residents or contractors who push or deposit snow on sidewalks and roads from $105 to $500.

Contractors may have simply been caught off guard if they had new drivers who were not familiar with the rules, he suggested, as they faced the season's first big snowfall which saw 25 centimetres fall over 14 hours.

"Winter did not ease in this year. It just happened," said Egli. "We went from wearing shorts two weeks ago to standing in significant amounts of snow and over the last couple of days significant cold."

Equipment broke down, standards slipped

The city also had a number of equipment breakdowns as it tried to clear snow after Dec. 29, Egli said. Despite doing checks ahead of time, the city said some issues with equipment don't come up until the plows and trucks set to work.

"When you have a small snowfall that's not so bad," said Egli, "When you have a big storm like this and you have all your staff out and all your machines out, when it's offline, it's offline."

Egli also admitted the city did not meet its standards for keeping sidewalks clear in the past week.

The heavy and large amount of snow meant the city had to switch from sidewalk plows to blowers, which operate at about a quarter of the speed.

Egli said today's debrief included a discussion about whether money could be found in the 2016 budget to either buy more blowers, or allow the public works department to hire contractors to clear sidewalks sooner.

As for the new Where Is My Plow app, which didn't always work during the recent storm, the city intends to perform some "technical tweaks"  to make it more user-friendly, Egli said.