An unseasonably warm start to December has led to a warning from emergency officials in Edmonton about the dangers of stormwater facilities.
In the past three weeks, EPCOR has received more than 30 reports of people walking, skating and sledding on the unstable ice of stormwater ponds. The utility company said that surpasses last year’s total of 21 reports.
“Recreating on stormwater facilities poses a significant safety risk,” said Clayton Tiedemann with EPCOR.
Tiedemann explained that these facilities are much different than regular ponds because they help move snow melt and storm runoff from the streets and through the drainage system. Because of this, contaminants get washed into the water, which increase the water temperature. This compromises the ice quality by melting it from below.
Water is continuously flowing through these facilities, which makes any ice that forms on the surface “very unstable and highly dangerous.”
There have been three fatalities in stormwater facilities in Alberta in the past three years, including one in Edmonton in 2017.
“This summer we saw an increased number of media reported drownings in Alberta as people stayed closer to home,” said Kelly Carter, CEO of the Lifesaving Society.
“This is a trend we do not want to see continue into the winter season. Your safety around bodies of water is critical. As you look for outdoor activities for your family this season, stay away from stormwater facilities in your neighbourhood.”
Hypothermia is also a risk for anyone who may fall through the ice. A person’s body loses heat 25 times faster in water compared to the same temperature in the air, according to Edmonton Fire Rescue Services.
“Where there is water there is risk,” said Bruce McWhinnie, with EFRS. “Stats suggest that a person has nine minutes to self-rescue. Nine minutes isn’t a lot of time for emergency responders to arrive.
“If you are to remember only one thing, it is to stay off the ice.”
Anyone that witnesses someone fall through the ice should immediately call 911. Try to keep an eye on the person and do not attempt to rescue them. This includes pets.
As a way to discourage people from walking and skating on stormwater facilities, EPCOR has provided Edmonton community leagues with $800 grants to build their own rinks. To date, 62 community leagues have received the grant.
Read more: How to build the perfect backyard rink
Edmontonians can find a list of safe places to skate on EPCOR’s website.