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

  • Space-preserved sperm: It's a thing, scientists say, after successful experiment with mice

    Tech & Science CBC News
    After nine months in space, mouse sperm has yielded healthy mice. That's the word from Japanese scientists whose results were published Monday. The freeze-dried sperm samples were launched in 2013 to the International Space Station and returned to Earth in 2014. Source
  • Mouse sperm yields healthy mice after 9 months in space

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- After nine months in space, mouse sperm has yielded healthy mice, Japanese scientists reported Monday. The freeze-dried sperm samples were launched in 2013 to the International Space Station and returned to Earth in 2014. Source
  • B.C. students win top prize at national science fair for plan to get humans home from Mars

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Grade 11 students Charles Wang (left) and Spencer Zezulka (right) of Surrey were awarded an $8,000 Youth Can Innovate Award from the Gwyn Morgan and Patricia Trottier Family Foundation (pictured here), at the Canada Wide Science Fair. Source
  • What Canada's Authorities - and Lottery Corporations - should Learn from Global iGaming

    Tech & Science 24news
    Canada is a country with quite a few commercial and tribal casino operations. As such, you might expect its residents to get all the casino action they can get both in real life and in the great online. Nothing could be further from the truth, though - the country only has three legal online gambling operations for its 10 provinces, each one operated by local lottery corporations. The laws of Canada don't allow anyone except state-owned lotteries to offer online gambling services to locals.…
  • Mark Zuckerberg says he's not running for public office

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEWPORT, R.I. -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his quest this year to visit every state he hadn't before is about building relationships, not politics. The 33-year-old billionaire wrote in a Facebook post that some users have asked if the trip means he's running for public office. Source
  • Revenge porn, self-harm videos among challenges Facebook moderators face, say leaked documents

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Leaked Facebook documents show how the social media company moderates issues such as hate speech, terrorism, pornography and self-harm on its platform, the Guardian reported, citing internal guidelines seen by the newspaper. New challenges such as "revenge porn" have overwhelmed Facebook's moderators, who often have just 10 seconds to make a decision, the Guardian said. Source
  • Thriving bobcats becoming backyard pests in urban areas

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CONCORD, N.H. -- As someone who has studied bobcats for almost four decades, wildlife ecologist John Litvaitis remembers many times returning from the field without spotting a single one of these solitary and shy creatures that often hunt at dusk. Source
  • Bevy of bobcats: Thriving animals poised as next urban pest

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CONCORD, N.H. -- As someone who has studied bobcats for almost four decades, wildlife ecologist John Litvaitis remembers many times returning from the field without spotting a single one of these solitary and shy creatures that often hunt at dusk. Source
  • NASA orders up urgent spacewalking repairs at space station

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA has ordered up urgent spacewalking repairs at the International Space Station. On Tuesday, two astronauts will venture out to replace a data relay box that broke over the weekend. Source
  • Ruins of 5,000-year-old city Mohenjo Daro at risk in Pakistan

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The centre of a powerful ancient civilisation, Mohenjo Daro was one of the world's earliest cities -- a Bronze Age metropolis boasting flush toilets and a water and waste system to rival many in modern Pakistan. Source