This is a snow melter. Its purpose, you might guess, is to melt snow. Earlier this month, the District saw much snow. This snow melter melted none of it. Rather, it sat, not melting snow, on a city lot.

All this was revealed by WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood, who reports that the city purchased the contraption in 2003 to handle the city’s last huge snowfall. “The $120,000 snowbot could take 10 dump truck loads at a time and was pretty efficient, even though it broke down at least once during operation,” reads his item. So what gives?

City officials declined a request for an on-camera interview, saying in a statement the snow melter needed parts, was difficult to operate and wasn’t worth using again. So it sits on the city’s public works lot.

Why isn’t it worth it? Using the melter would have had environmental benefits, since the runoff could be piped into sewers and treated at Blue Plains, rather than melting directly into the Anacostia River, which is what the snow trucked out of downtown this month is doing.

And if that still isn’t worth it, why not sell it/give it away to some municipality that could fix it and use it? (Probably not in the Dominican Republic, but you get the idea.)

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham plans to explore the snow-melter issue at upcoming oversight hearings.

Photo courtesy of Tom Sherwood