Most recent reports show Metro Vancouver fell behind safety recommendations for Cleveland Dam
VANCOUVER -- CTV News has obtained a pair of Cleveland Dam safety review reports, commissioned years apart, which show Metro Vancouver did not immediately implement all safety recommendations, including some pertaining to the drum gate at the centre of a fatal accident that claimed the lives of a father and son last year.
At least five people were swept down the Capilano River after the drum gate was fully opened without warning on Oct. 1.
Among those caught up in the rushing waters were 61-year-old Ryan Nickerson and his 27-year-old son Hugh.
Ryan Nickerson’s body was recovered within hours, but Hugh could not be immediately located, and after several days an extensive search by North Shore Rescue and the RCMP was called off.
In the days after the fatal accident, Jerry Dubrolvny, Metro Vancouver’s chief administrative officer, said "human error relating to programming the spillway at the dam" was the clearest contributing factor to the accidental release of water.
Through freedom of information requests, CTV News has obtained safety reviews of the Cleveland Dam from 2009 and 2016.
The 2016 report highlights a number of recommendations from the 2009 report that had still not been implemented.
“The highest priority non-conformance is the development of a Dam Safety Management System (DSMS) document,” a summary of the 2016 report says.
Several sections of the documents were redacted by the province before the reviews were shared with CTV News.
Most of the redactions pertain to Section 15 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which deals with situations where the disclosure of information could be harmful to ongoing investigations, a person’s right to a fair trial, or security of a property or computer system.
The BC Coroner’s Service and the RCMP have active investigations into the fatal accident that killed the Nickersons.
Metro Vancouver is also investigating and three people have already been fired in connection with the sudden release of water.
“The accountability and authority for the implementation of the dam safety procedures and protocols should be clearly defined and the roles of and responsibilities of persons managing all key components of the dam safety management should also be clearly defined in the suggested document containing the dam safety management system,” it says in the 2009 safety review.
The 2016 safety review lists that recommendation as outstanding.
In an emailed statement to CTV News, Metro Vancouver said it has since developed a Dam Safety Management System document which “provides the framework for identification and implementation of all dam safety activities and supporting processes, describes the overall process in place to safely operate and maintain the five Metro Vancouver water supply dams, and demonstrates Metro Vancouver Water Services’ compliance with the requirements of the Provincial Dam Safety Regulation.”
The statement went on to say it is not unusual for items from formal Dam Safety Reviews to take years to effectively implement.
One recommendation highlighted in both the 2009 and 2016 safety reviews that remains outstanding is the installation of a public facing audible alarm system to warn people on or near the Capilano River when there is a sudden and unexpected release of water from the Cleveland Dam.
Metro Vancouver says it is working to install an interim set of public facing alarms this spring while it begins engagement to discuss the development of a permanent public warning system.