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Dirt and trash in snow could melt into Cleveland-area waterways

crushed can in snow bank
Lisa Ryan
Ideastream Public Media
A crushed energy drink can and other litter collects in snow banks. As the snow melts, the trash can end up in Northeast Ohio's waterways.

Warmer weather in Northeast Ohio means the snow is melting, but snow runoff could be filled with trash and waste that may have a negative impact on our environment. 

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's goal is to remove the junk before it reaches Lake Erie and other waterways in our area, but that doesn't always happen, said Jeannie Smith, communications and community relations manager for Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). 

"Eventually that trash is going to go somewhere, and if it's not going to our plant, it's likely running out into the environment," she said. 

litter in snowbank
Lisa Ryan
Ideastream Public Media
Litter sits in a snowbank on Cleveland's west side.

Smith has been seeing a lot of dog waste as the snow melts, which she says is an issue for our local water sources.  

"Regardless of the time of year, if you're not picking up after your pet, that poop can make its way into a local waterway," she said. "Dog poop has a really high bacteria level, so that's always concerning."

The trash and dirt in the water is a public health concern when people start to swim in the water in the spring and summer, Smith said. But even though it's not warm enough yet for swimming, the dirty snow can still negatively impact our health, she said. 

"With Lake Erie being our largest source of drinking water, it's really important that we're protecting it, and part of that is picking up after yourself," she said. 
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Lisa Ryan is a health reporter at Ideastream Public Media.