‘We can’t fix all of it’: B.C. mayor says costs of updating deadly lake likely too high

Man-made lake where two girls drowned remains closed as B.C. city council deliberates updates

The city council responsible for the man-made lake in northeastern B.C. where a 12-year-old girl drowned is unsure it will be able to address all of the health hazards identified after her death.

In a phone interview on Friday, Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead told Black Press Media Beverly Park’s death at Rotary Park on Aug. 13, 2016 was “a horrible tragedy.”

Beverly had been playing with friends when, according to the coroner’s report, the children were able to remove bolts that were holding a cover over a drainage pipe at the bottom of the lake formerly classified as a pool. The cover subsequently came off, and Beverly’s leg was sucked into the pipe and trapped. As a result, her head was underwater.

First responders resuscitated Beverly after the pump was shut off and took her to a medical facility for treatment. But diagnostic testing would identify significant brain injury because of the lack of oxygen, and three days later, the girl was declared brain dead.

In 1994, a five-year-old girl also drowned at the lake, which the chief environmental health officer at the time attributed to the murkiness of the water and overcrowded conditions.

Beverly Park drowned on Aug. 13, 2016 after her leg was sucked into a drainage pipe in Dawson Creek’s man-made Rotary Lake.

After Beverly’s death, a number of health hazards were identified at Rotary Lake and Northern Health issued an order under the Public Health Act, closing it to the public. The healthcare provider recommended that the province repeal the lake’s exemption from the requirements of the Pool Regulation, which was granted in 1989, adding that it may be possible for a partial exemption from the regulation if the City of Dawson Creek submits a request to the province.

At press time there had been no changes to the lake’s exemption and it remained closed.

Bumstead told Black Press Media it will be “really difficult” to address all of the hazards, which include, but are not limited to inadequate fencing, no supervision, poor water clarity, inadequate safety and first aid equipment, as well as a single main drain that created a suction hazard.

According to Northern Health, several of the hazards have been identified by public health inspectors before, as early as 1968, one year after the facility was built.

“We are just in a real dilemma,” Bumstead said, referring to the high costs of updating old infrastructure.

READ MORE: Memorial grows for teen who drowned in Okanagan Lake

Bumstead said the most recent discussion city council has had with Northern Health took place at their Sept. 9 regular meeting.

After the delegation from Northern Health described the history of the facility, Bumstead said it may be “fiscally impossible” to make the required modifications.

“Structurally there are some things that can be done and some things that can’t,” he had said at the meeting. “We can fix some of it, we can’t fix all of it.”

Coun. Jerimy Earl also spoke at the meeting, saying the crux of the issue “is going to be [their] ability to staff it with full-time lifeguards in the summer.”

“It’s a free service, it’s open for three or four months of the year,” Earl said. “Is there a way forward where we have an alternative model that doesn’t include full-time lifeguards or is that a conversation stopper?”

Medical health officer Jong Kim said Northern Health was not able to provide a “black and white answer.”

“It’s a really important component to have,” Kim said.

READ MORE: Retired Northern Health official — Managers should have to eat the same food served in hospitals

Coun. Blair Lekstrom said he thinks the lake can be “operated in a manner that meets the needs of the residents, the safety of the residents and also the financial viability.”

“We have to be real,” he said at the meeting. “How much can you spend?

“If it is about eliminating risks completely then I think we’re living in the wrong world, because there are risk every day.”

Bumstead told Black Press Media council will likely continue to discuss the issue as part of overall budget deliberations.

He said they may also “review if [they] want to have an outdoor aquatic facility.”

“I think we need to do some planning around that,” he said, noting the fact that the city has a newer indoor aquatic centre that may meet its needs.

In the meantime, Beverly’s parents Todd and Brandie Park are suing the city, the operators of Mile 0 Park where the lake is located as well as the province.

Bumstead was not able to comment on the litigation.

At press time the city had yet to file a response to the Parks’ civil claim.



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

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