The July 13 Metro article "Taking the Plunge: Fun Meets Fear Head-On at Maryland Swimming Hole" left the impression that it is safe to swim in abandoned quarries. It is not. Every summer children and adults die because they don't realize the dangers of abandoned quarries and other mine sites.
While the quarry in your story appears to be safe -- I have been told it has lifeguards and is actually an established swimming club -- already this summer, four young people and one adult have been killed in quarry-related incidents.
A 6-year-old Hagerstown boy died when he fell off a 100-foot quarry wall; a 17-year-old drowned while swimming in an old quarry in Richmond Township, Pa.; another 17-year-old drowned while swimming in an abandoned gravel pit near Rochester, Minn.; a 13-year-old girl drowned while swimming in an old coal pit near Heavener, Okla.; and a 31-year-old man drowned while swimming in an old gravel pit near Camden, Ohio.
Kids are right to worry about hitting their heads when they dive into most quarries. Unlike swimming pools or shallow lakes, water-filled quarries can hide rock ledges, old machinery and other hazards. Their depth can make the water dangerously cold. Swimmers may struggle to climb out of water surrounded by steep rock walls. Rarely is help close by for a swimmer in trouble.
The U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration recently joined with some 30 other mining-related organizations in a campaign to inform kids and parents about the dangers of playing at abandoned quarries and other mine sites.
Young people should and do have safe places to swim and enjoy their summer thrills, but abandoned quarries and other mines should not be among them.
-- J. Davitt McAteer
The writer is assistant secretary for mine safety and health in the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.