To the Editor,
Everyone has their own way of looking at risk. Generally when it comes to personal safety people are risk averse. That’s why we have consumer protection laws and industry regulations. From bicycle helmets to food inspection to aircraft maintenance we have institutionalized the protection of the public. While individuals often have a right to jeopardize their own safety, rarely does anyone lobby to increase the risk to others. Yet this is exactly what a group in Nanaimo is doing in their efforts to prevent or delay the removal of the 100-year-old concrete dams at Colliery Dam Park.
Dam failures are not uncommon. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation lists 34 failures that resulted in loss of life ranging from one to more than 2,000. It is unlikely that any jurisdiction today would approve a dam for recreational use that had a chance of increasing risks to the public downstream. In fact, one would expect that the downstream public would vociferously object to any such proposal.
Experts can spend a lot of money analyzing and studying dam safety and coming up with different results but common sense tells us that a concrete wall poured 100 years ago has a reasonable probability of failure. If the failure is likely to cause a number of deaths then society has an obligation to act to mitigate the risk.