Dangerous Ponds – Do You Have One Near You?

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Last week a sad tale hit the newswire with details surrounding the death of an 80 year old Wisconsin Rapids man. He had gone out to clean some algae from a pond on his property, and when he hadn’t returned that evening his wife became concerned and went looking for him, and found him face down in the water.

It’s believed he may have slipped or fell into the water and simply couldn’t get himself out.

This story stimulated a bit of curiosity in me so I went to our friend Google and searched for more information on pond deaths and found it to be an all too common occurrence.

Take the 2012 report of an Illinois man, only 37 years old at the time, who drowned in a pond after his kayak overturned while he was investigating a local swan family. It’s thought that once in the water, the man tried to swim for shore, and was harassed by the birds, and his clothing and boots became heavy and water logged, and he didn’t make it to land. He left behind a wife and several daughters.

And in case you might be thinking that drownings and such happen only in larger ponds, the unfortunate fact is that small ponds can also turn deadly.

Small Ponds Have Risks Too

In 2014 a toddler in Ohio, accidentally fell into a backyard decorative pond. CPR was administered on the 18 month old boy, but he could not be revived after transport to a nearby hospital.

And of course, in recent years, there have been many more tragedies. And they don’t just include people. Pets as well will often inadvertently end up in the water and if they have trouble swimming or there’s no easy way out of the pond, they too can fall victim to drowning.

Winter Pond Dangers

Summer time is the most common season for drowning deaths, but we can’t forget that winter has it’s risks too. Thin ice that won’t hold the weight of a person, or animal, may be hard to gauge and once one falls through, it can be harder to extricate yourself. Once again, most reports indicate children of various ages, and pets, as the most likely to fall victim to thin ice.

Here’s a quick run down of some tips that discuss how to safely get out after a fall through the ice.

Toxic Algae Can Also Be A Problem

Every single summer reports come along announcing toxic algae blooms in ponds around the country. These are usually in mid summer or late season issues that come with ample heat and sunshine and very aggressive blooms of blue-green algae. These algae create toxins in the water that if ingested can create a number of physical issues.

Pets or livestock appear to be the most commonly affected by these blooms and this story of a hunting dog in Oleans NY came out lucky after some rapid assistance from a knowledgeable veterinarian. Many pets, as well as some wildlife, simply do not recover from the toxins.

Fortunately dangerous blooms are not all that common overall and they don’t occur throughout most of the year. As the weather cools down, these algae will rapidly drop in numbers and won’t be a problem. During the warm summer months however it’s a good idea to be on guard and watch your pets closely. Be sure to provide a source of fresh water on your walks or outings to avoid have them drink from a nearby pond.

As we’ve noted in other posts here, blue-green algae doesn’t have to be an issue in community ponds. Historically it has been readily controlled with ultrasound systems, reduced with beneficial bacteria supplementation and aeration, or outright killed with an appropriate algaecide. If a pond has shown a history of having problematic blooms, it’s one of the few occasions in my opinion that may warrant algaecide usage during the peak of the summer season.

Awareness Saves Lives

It’s unfortunate that so many people have had to suffer the loss of loved ones or beloved pets to pond related accidents. And while one can’t guard against every tragedy, the fact is that we often take for granted the threats that exist around us. Ponds are every where, and it’s likely you might have one near your home now. We see them everyday and often recreate in and around them often, mostly without giving a lot of thought to the risks related to them.

Usually there are no problems at all, but it only takes one instance to change your perspective on things forever.

If possible, it’s a good idea to not work in or around a pond alone. Have someone with you that can offer help should you find yourself or another person in a bad situation. Do not leave pets or youngsters unattended around water. Remain aware that even in a small pond, a person can slip and become injured or incapacitated, and pets can get into the water quickly and easily and may not find a clear way out.

Use common sense around winter ponds, and if possible stay off them unless you know without a doubt that the ice is thick enough to support your weight. Keep pets and children away from frozen ponds and teach them if possible to avoid this risky environment.

And when it comes to algae issues, know that you can’t always tell a toxic bloom from a harmless one. It’s a good idea overall to avoid having your pet drink or swim in a pond if you see green tinted water in particular. It may not necessarily show up visually as well so if a pet does go in the water and shows odd symptoms afterwards, be sure to get them to a vet immediately. It very well may save their life.

A pond can be a beautiful place to be around, and they don’t have to be a dangerous thing. But they do deserve and warrant a certain amount of respect and awareness in regards to safety.

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