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Reports of Dangerous Activity on Stormwater Facilities Surpasses Last Year's Total

December 10, 2020
Published In: Safety

​Over the past three weeks, EPCOR has received more than 30 reports of people walking, skating and sledding on the unstable ice of stormwater facilities. Early in the season, this already exceeds the total combined number of reports from last winter, which was 21.

"Recreating on stormwater facilities poses a significant safety risk," said Clayton Tiedemann, EPCOR Divisional Vice President. "Beneath the surface, these facilities are very different than your average pond, and any ice that forms on top is extremely unsafe. We recognize that restrictions on organized sports and indoor recreation centres has created a difficult situation for many families. EPCOR is supporting Edmontonians in finding safe recreation alternatives by providing passes for outdoor activities and in the development of safe community skating rinks. Edmontonians can find a list of safe places to skate.

To help discourage recreating on stormwater facilities and encourage opportunities for safe outdoor fun, EPCOR is providing community leagues in Edmonton with grants of $800 each to build designated skating rinks. This is the third year of the grant program. To date, 62 Community Leagues have received the grant. As well, EPCOR is partnering with local social media influencers to give away 440 passes for skiing, tubing and snowshoeing at outdoor recreation facilities, along with a number of DIY backyard skating rink kits.

"Where there is water there is risk," cautions Bruce McWhinnie, Chief of Special Operations with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services. "For anyone who may accidentally break through the ice, hypothermia is a real risk. A person's body loses heat 25 times faster in water compared to the same temperature of air. Stats suggest that a person has 9 minutes to self-rescue. Nine minutes isn't a lot of time for emergency responders to arrive. EPCOR has provided the reason why stormwater ice is not safe. If you are to remember only one thing, it is 'to stay off the ice'."

Most neighbourhood ponds are actually stormwater facilities. Stormwater facilities play an important role in helping to move snow melt and storm runoff from our streets, through the drainage system. As a result, contaminants from the streets get washed into the facilities. These contaminants have been shown to increase water temperature, compromising ice quality by melting the ice from below. In addition, water is continuously flowing through the facility, which also makes any ice that forms on the surface very unstable and highly dangerous.

As recently as October 2020, two young girls were rescued from a Calgary stormwater facility by local residents after falling through thin ice. In total, there have been three fatalities in stormwater facilities in Alberta in the past three years, including one in Edmonton in 2017. Anyone that witnesses someone fall through the ice should immediately call 9-1-1. Try to keep an eye on the individual, and do not attempt to rescue them. This includes pets.

"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. The water flowing through the facility causes the ice to be unstable. We have seen unseasonably warm weather this year and this will have an impact on both the ice strength and thickness. For more information on preventing drowning related deaths and ice safety please visit lifesaving.org."

Find more information about stormwater facilities, as well as a listing of safe recreational skating.

For more information contact:

Keltie Denton

EPCOR Media Relations
(780) 721-9001
media@epcor.com  

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