Experts: Safety concerns at storm culverts after teen dies - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Experts: Safety concerns at storm culverts after teen dies

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After the body of 17-year-old Logan Blake was pulled out of Cedar Lake on Tuesday, safety at storm culverts is at the forefront of many peoples' minds.

Larry Smith with the City of Waterloo said most storm sewers aren't a risk to the public.

However, Smith said in his 26 years with the City of Waterloo, there is one place he calls an "area of concern."

He said the box culvert inlets at Liberty Park have no screen or grate, and when it rains a swift current could easily force someone inside.

But he also said there's no grate or screen because having one would likely clog up more debris at the inlet and cause more severe flooding in the neighborhood that already deals with flooding during heavy rain.

Marcia Courbat has lived across the street from Liberty Park since the 1950s.

"I can see where it would be dangerous," she said.

Experts with the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA) say they recommend a safety grate or fencing in all cases except when the entrance to the conduit meets all three of the following conditions:

1.) You can see daylight from the entrance to the exit (i.e., the conduit is short and straight),

2.) The conduit can safely pass a 48 inch diameter object, and

3.) There is no hazardous condition at the exit of the conduit (e.g., jagged rocks or a cliff).

If the culvert or storm drain does not meet all three of these criteria, Ken MacKenzie -- a committee chair with NAFSMA, told KWWL a safety grate or fencing is recommended.

He said in order to minimize the risk of someone being pinned to the grate, it should have an open area that is at least four times the area of the conduit opening.

"It is a community decision," he said.

MacKenzie also pointed out NAFSMA itself does not have an official policy about safety grates and/or fences, and that a number of factors go into deciding whether to install a safety grate or fence.

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