Communities, builders work to make retention ponds safer


In the wake of two recent deadly crashes involving cars driving into retention ponds, Eyewitness News has discovered new ways some cities and builders are trying to keep people safe.

Sasha Cottom lost his life Saturday when his car left the road and went into a Westfield retention pond. His father, Steve Cottom, questions how safe or dangerous these ponds are. "That retention pond down there is amazing," Steve Cottom said. "I could not believe it that they could not just walk in there and the water was not just waist deep."

The retention ponds at Sandpiper Lakes subdivision were built more than ten years ago. The fence is plastic, and the ponds are just a few feet from a state highway. Now developers and builders that put in retention ponds in most central Indiana counties are required to build them at least 50 feet from a road. If the pond is built closer to a road, the developer must have one of three barriers to keep cars and drivers safe: a fence capable of stopping a car, trees guarding the pond or mounds that cars cannot drive over.

A few neighborhoods, even where not required to do so, have put in trees and fences to help thwart drivers from going into ponds. And at least one neighborhood has found a way to eliminate the traditional retention pond. Under the brick pavers is 5 feet of gravel, where water can soak into the ground in heavy rain.

The ponds at Sandpiper do not meet these requirements. Nor is the county requiring the homeowners to make the ponds safer.

In Greenwood, where the city plans to install guardrails around the most dangerous retention ponds, finding the money has been a problem. It's a problem a grieving father hopes is solved sooner than later.

"There is a danger of cars or trucks or whatever sliding into them," said Cottom. "They need to be protected."