St. Marys Journal Argus
With summer reaching its height, decreasing water levels have been offered as the reason why the options for entering the Quarry pool in St. Marys are now down to one: Swimmers must use the pool-edge ladders, or not go in the Quarry at all.
Last week, the Town of St. Marys issued an announcement on its online news service that both the cliff jump and the low diving board are now off limits due to low water levels. The high diving board, meanwhile, has not been in use for two years, in part because of the same issue.
A chain was placed across the entrance path to the cliff a few weeks ago. More recently, the low diving board was removed from its platform and signs were erected directing swimmers to enter using the ladders.
In an interview with the Journal Argus last week, Michael Shane, Safety Management Director at the Lifesaving Society’s Ontario branch, was not aware that the cliff and low board had been declared off limits. It was following a 2013 safety audit by the Lifesaving Society that the high diving board was taken out of service.
According to Shane, one major step during the 2013 audit was to establish water levels at which the three jumping/diving features meet the standards used by the Lifesaving Society.
(A subsequent visit to the Quarry by the Lifesaving Society, in May of this year, included examination by a certified diver of the pool bottom below the low diving board.)
“For the most part, at the cliff, the water depth certainly exceeded what would be expected for that height of platform,” he said of that 2013 assessment, which treated the cliff as a “platform” as opposed to a springboard. “It’s more important how high it is above the water than what the structure is made of,” Shane added of the cliff.
Water depth was also sufficient at that time beneath the low diving board.
Shane explained the standards being used for the three features are drawn from the Ontario Building Code, which come originally from FINA (the Fédération Internationale de Natation). “Now this is a very unusual quarry, of course,” he noted. “I’m not aware of any other quarry in Ontario that has a three-metre dive.”
The same standards are applied to pools being built and operated by municipalities, as well as in locations like hotels, apartment buildings and condominiums in Ontario.
For backyard pools, Shane said, homeowners are typically provided advice by pool manufacturers regarding the installation of diving boards and the depth of water.
He added that “the Town is quite right to continually monitor the depth at this facility.”
He was unaware, however, that Recreation Department staff was asked earlier this year by Town Council to place a permanent mark near the high dive showing how far the water level would have to rise for the feature to meet FINA standards. When that mark was put on the lower girders of the high dive platform, it revealed the water would have to come up so high that it would cover the entire concrete deck leading to the Quarry ladders — making the entire facility unusable.
Shane stressed it’s not up to the Lifesaving Society to decide how the Town responds to the changes in water depth and how that relates to the FINA standards. “If the water level has to be that high (covering the concrete deck) to meet the minimum standards from the Building Code, then I suppose (permanent off-limits status for the high dive) is what it means. It’s certainly up to the Town how it manages that.”
Asked if there are other complicating factors with the high dive or the other jumping/diving features, such as the style of ladder leading up to the high dive platform, he said those factors can almost always be addressed in some way.
“All of these other things, I would say, are not as important. Certainly, measures can be taken to make the structure more safe,” he said. “But the priority here is, I think, the water depth . . . Where you have diving boards or diving platforms . . . we would hope that there is sufficient water beneath them.”