Earlier this week, I received a frantic tip from an acquaintance who insisted that the city was shoving huge piles of snow into some sort of weaponized Sanitation truck and SETTING IT ON FIRE. Here's what he said:

Last week on Broad St. between Water and south streets, Sanitation closed off the block. They set up some crazy diesel powered thing, maybe like a trough? There were guards making sure people didn't cross mid-street there, and they had big bulldozer things SCOOPING SNOW into the trough, which was heated with like, flames, I think. And the melted snow went into a pipe, which went into the sewer. THE CITY BURNS SNOW.

Intrigued by the thought that the city was spending money to dispose of something that literally evaporates on its own, I contacted the Department of Sanitation, which confirmed that, yes, the city melts snow, though regrettably does not in fact set it on fire in giant heaping piles, nor does it use flamethrowers.

"It's like a quote-unquote hot tub," explained Sanitation spokesperson Belinda Mager, adding that the mechanism uses water—not hot, but warmer than ice—to melt the snow, at which point it's filtered for debris and sent through a tube into a DEP-approved sewer, which pipes it to a treatment plant.

"So it's not just a straight shot—it's not just 'We dump it in, it gets hot and it melts,'" she said.

Sanitation has 36 such melters disbursed throughout the city—29 "regular sized melters," which process up to 60 tons of snow per hour, in addition to seven "mega-melters," which can process 130 tons per hour. Mager added that the city deploys its melters after plowing, and only when levels reach between eight inches. "We wouldn't bring them out for two inches of snow," she said. The melters are typically used on the city's more narrow streets, she said, "where there's less room for the snow to go."

Prior to the mid-'90s, when the melters were introduced, snow was generally shoved into huge heaps in out-of-the-way spaces like parks, said Keith Mellis, the department's chief spokesperson. That practice, though, presented some problems: The heaps eventually thawed, sending fetid rivers of water into the storm drains and, in some cases, into homes and businesses. "New York City is not a place that's made for storing snow," he said.

So just to be clear: The city is not burning piles of snow; though it does, yes, melt it. And sometimes it just gets tossed into the river.