‘They’re not safe to be on:’ City warns about safety of retention ponds in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — City of Winnipeg officials repeated their warning to residents to stay off retention ponds and streams inside the city.

At a City Hall news conference Friday morning, Mayor Brian Bowman and Jay Shaw, the city’s Emergency Services manager, reminded residents that the ponds are off-limits to all recreational activity, including skating.

Bowman said the city would rather not have to go out to an emergency involving a retention pond.

“Retention ponds in particular, they’re not safe to be on at any time. We want to make sure, first and foremost, we protect the safety of our residents. If there’s less emergency calls for retention ponds, there are more first responders available for other emergencies,” Bowman said.

Shaw says ice conditions are always dangerously unpredictable on retention ponds due to factors beyond outdoor temperatures and sunshine.

“No matter the temperature outside or surface appearance of the ice, conditions on retention ponds can change quickly and without warning,” Shaw said. “During the winter, water from the snow melt or from nearby water main breaks drains into retention ponds. This runoff is often mixed with street salts that can cause the ice to melt and thin quickly.”

He said water enters the pond from under the ice, creating a thinning of the ice that can’t be seen from the surface.

The city has stepped up patrols of retention ponds by bylaw officers to remind any pond users their presence on the ice is prohibited, as well as hazardous.

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