Are fences needed around retention ponds to prevent drownings of children?

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Fencing retention ponds

Did you know that in many areas across the country, drowning is estimated to be the second leading cause of injury death after road traffic injuries. In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging ten deaths per day (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). Approximately 20% of the fatal drowning victims were children who were 14 years or younger. While that statistic is startling, for each fatality there are an additional four children that receive medical attention for nonfatal water-related injury (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (2010) reported that fatal drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-14 years. A significant number of these incidents occur in water retention and detention ponds.

It is tragic to know that Jacksonville has had their own recent tragedy at a retention pond that might have been avoided if there had been a fence.  News4Jax did an investigation recently pertaining to retention ponds and whether or not there are requirements for them to be fenced off from the public or whether they can be open.  The reason for the investigation had to do with the tragic drowning that occurred earlier this month when Jamarion Lee who was playing with his 8-year-old brother slipped into a retention pond off Nolan Street. The city told the News4Jax I-TEAM that there are certain design guidelines it must follow for pond fencing, and the pond where Jamarion drowned meets design specifications that do not require a fence. But in the interest of public safety, the City said in a statement to News4Jax, they will review the design and examination of the design to reconfirm the slopes.

There was another prior potential drowning but the retention pond was owned by the State of Florida Department of Transportation. A lady was taking children to a local day care when she was impacted by another vehicle.  Her vehicle ran over in this retention pond and it went completely down into the pond.  Luckily, she and the children in her vehicle were rescued and they reported that after the accident they fought for a fence, and got one. But this pond crashed was owned by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Westside retention pond is owned by the city. The design guidelines are very similar to the city’s and the family said the city should make an exception like FDOT did for them.

When is a fence required?

For the City: Most City ponds are built with 4:1 side slopes (refers to 1 foot of elevation change for every feet of horizontal distance, making it easy to enter and exit the pond). Wet ponds are often even more shallow. Fencing is required when the side slopes are steep, exceeding the 4:1 requirement.

Learn more here: http://www.coj.net/departments/public-works/right-of-way-and-grounds-maintenance/stormwater-drainage

FDOT makes exceptions when the pond is likely to experience “significant exposure” to children or the elderly — like if they are adjacent to schools or day care facilities.

Click here to learn more about state requirements for pond creation: http://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/recreation/pond-management/#design & http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/nonpoint/docs/nonpoint/Stormwater_Guide.pdf

The Investigative team from News4Jax found out Pinedale Elementary School is four streets away from the Westside pond where the boy drowned and neighbors said many of the kids walk right by it to and from school, five days a week. There is also a public park two streets away from that pond.

There are five ponds within a few blocks of each other on the Westside and none of them are fenced. Neighbors told the I-TEAM they would like to see all of them fenced if possible. State Senators and City Councilmen are on board for getting more fencing around retention ponds.

If you or a loved one has been injured or deceased as result of a drowning, contact us at Edwards & Ragatz for a free consultation (904)399-1609 or toll free at (800)366-1609 or email us at info@edwardsragatz.com today.

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