Protecting children from retention ponds after child's drowning

CALUMET COUNTY (WITI) -- An 11-year-old boy from Hilbert drowned in a retention pond on Tuesday, July 9th, and some parents say it could have happened to one of their children. Municipalities are taking steps to keep people away from ponds of water.

"You hate to see anything happen to anybody. It was just a bad series of events that culminated in this tragedy," Hilbert Village Board President Ken Stenklyft said.

Stenklyft says the retention pond 11-year-old Jacob Meronek's body was pulled from Tuesday was built after the city purchased the property to develop into a business park.

"Part of the DNR regulations are that you have to put a retention pond in and at that time, we put one in to accommodate those businesses," Stenklyft said.

The DNR says it has no real requirements for "wet detention ponds," other than guidelines for municipalities to follow.

Nowhere in that guidance document does the DNR explicitly say a storm water pond must be secured, such as with a fence. The guidelines do suggest a pond owner, like a municipality, consider additional safety features where needed.

"I think with this large of a body of water in a little, tiny neighborhood, somehow it needs to be secured," Jayne Young said.

Young and her husband moved to Hilbert's Fochs Trail subdivision 14 years ago. Since then, she's had three kids. Wyatt, her youngest, has Down Syndrome.

"I immediately took it very hard because I have a disabled son who has no fear and it immediately registered in my mind that it could have been my own child," Young said.

Young says even a simple chain-link fence would keep people away from the potentially dangerous water, admitting it would be an eyesore.

"I'd still rather have a chain-link fence than to have to look for an obituary in the paper," Young said.

As for the village, Stenklyft says it's not required to secure the retention ponds.