On thin ice: Scientists study safety of skating on urban storm-water ponds

EDMONTON -- Mark Loewen and his research team spent the last two winters hauling around a radar machine and drilling through ice as children and adults raced around on skates and fired slapshots.

See Full Article

The Edmonton scientists now are crunching data in what Loewen, a University of Alberta civil and environmental engineering professor, believes is the first comprehensive study of ice on city storm-water ponds.

So far the study has confirmed what most municipalities already know -- ice thickness on small suburban lakes is not as certain as ice that forms on natural water bodies. It's constantly changing as runoff and drainage water flows through the ponds all year.

"A lot of time the ice covers can be safe," said Loewen. "But if they're safe on a Monday, that doesn't mean they're safe on a Friday.

"And it's that unpredictability that is the cause for concern."

Water moving through the ponds can be warmer and turbulent and melt ice faster, said Loewen. Even if water has frozen all the way to the bottom of a shallow section, channels of water can still cut through it.

Another contributing factor is road salt, he said. Depending on how much is applied to nearby roads and how much runs off into ponds, it can also speed up thawing.

He understands why people want to lace up for these ponds. There are about 160 in Edmonton -- most in newer neighbourhoods right outside residents' back doors.

But the ice is too iffy.

"It's just too complicated a problem, which is why you're not supposed to be on the ice cover at all."

The City of Edmonton requested the study, Loewen said, since skating on storm-water ponds is somewhat of a touchy issue. Signs posted at city ponds warn against skating on them, but many people do it anyway.

Just two weeks ago, park rangers fined a man $100 after he shovelled off and flooded a section of a pond behind his family's home. Because there's no specific bylaw against skating on the ponds, the ticket was for modifying land in a way that could cause injury.

Oil-refinery worker Brian Tomlinson said his family has skated on the storm-water pond in the past without trouble. When he told his kids that it was off limits this year, his three-year-old daughter burst into tears.

Tomlinson, who says there's nothing more Canadian that playing pond hockey, plans to fight the ticket in court next month.

It's the first fine related to a storm-pond rink that the city has issued in the last few years, said Greg Komarniski, a city park ranger.

The pond behind Tomlinson's home is a bit different than others, he said. Called Poplar Lake, the pond is fenced off and marked with a sign warning of thin ice. It's also an environmentally sensitive area.

In this case, Komarniski said, rangers responded to a complaint and decided to give Tomlinson a ticket rather than a warning.

Wendy Laskosky with the city's drainage department said warning letters are sometimes sent to residents in neighbourhoods where staff find rinks on storm-water ponds.

As the city grows and more ponds are built, skating on them will become more of a concern, she suggested.

"We're concerned for public safety and we're not sure where the ice is thin."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • NAFTA talks: U.S. proposal for cross-border data storage at odds with B.C., N.S. law

    Tech & Science CBC News
    One of the American targets in the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement appears on a collision course with privacy laws in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In negotiating objectives published last week, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said it wanted to "establish rules to ensure that NAFTA countries do not impose measures that restrict cross-border data flows and do not require the use of installation of local computing facilities. Source
  • Cyber staff: Wisconsin company offers to microchip employees

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A Wisconsin company is offering to microchip its employees, enabling them to open doors, log onto their computers and purchase break room snacks with a simple swipe of the hand. Three Square Market, also known as 32M, said more than 50 employees are voluntarily getting implants Aug. Source
  • Health officials warn of toxic blue-green algae in a New Brunswick lake

    Tech & Science CTV News
    FREDERICTON - Health officials in New Brunswick are warning of a blue-green algae on Nashwaak Lake in the western part of the province. Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, the regional medical officer of health, says water from the lake should not be used for drinking or cooking, since boiling it will not remove the toxins. Source
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk clash over artificial intelligence

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Billionaire CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are trading jabs online over the future of artificial intelligence. In a Facebook Live broadcast from his backyard on Sunday, Zuckerberg, the social media network’s CEO, suggested that Musk is “irresponsible” for highlighting the dangers of AI. Source
  • Several deadly Portuguese men-of-war spotted off Nova Scotia

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX - Unwanted visitors of the gelatinous kind are being spotted in Nova Scotia waters, spooking some swimmers who have come across the potentially lethal species. A Halifax researcher says she has five confirmed sightings of Portuguese man-of-war so far this summer, raising questions about their unusual presence in northern waters. Source
  • Climate lawsuits against energy giants will have 'difficult' time, prof says

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new series of lawsuits may have a "difficult" time proving major energy companies helped cause and cover up climate change, but they have a better chance now than ever, a University of Calgary environmental law professor says. Source
  • True: Snopes raises $500K through crowdfunding amid legal battle

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN DIEGO -- Fact-checking website Snopes.com has quickly met a $500,000 goal set for an online fundraiser amid a legal battle with an outside vendor that Snopes says is holding it hostage. Snopes started the GoFundMe campaign Monday and reached the half-million dollar goal about 24 hours later. Source
  • Scientists find new evidence of water in the moon

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New satellite data has found numerous volcanic deposits across the moon, adding to the growing body of evidence that there's a surprising amount of water beneath its barren-looking surface. The ancient deposits are believed to consist of glass beads of water formed during explosive eruptions of magma. Source
  • Not quite dead: Microsoft says Paint 'here to stay' after outcry

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Undo, undo, undo! Microsoft is seeking to calm fears that it will eliminate the decades-old paint program in the next Windows update, after including the tool on a list of programs it will no longer update. Source
  • Tokyo to begin seeking names for star giant panda cub

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Tokyo is preparing to start collecting ideas later this week for naming a new giant panda cub born at its Ueno zoo. The zoo, Japan's oldest, has not shown the cub directly to the public. Source