2013-04-18 / Front Page

Meadow Grounds Dam: No Signs Of Imminent Danger

County releases dam evaluation by CES Engineering
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Having obtained the services of an engineering firm over a month ago to further investigate potential problems with Roaring Run Dam, the Fulton County commissioners have publicly released those findings that indicate the dam at Meadow Grounds Lake is “not displaying any signs of imminent or catastrophic failure.”

Posted on the county’s Web site, the commissioners revealed Monday a dam inspection checklist as well as a dam inspection letter prepared by CES Engineering, LLC. The actual inspection of the dam by Lee “Bucky” Zeger and Carl Boyer of CES Engineering, was performed March 14, one week before Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Department of Environmental Protection officials sat down with concerned residents for a public meeting.

According to reports, those same state officials have since reviewed CES’s documentation existing outlining issues, analysis and conclusion. In spite of these new findings, PFBC is planning on moving forward with the drawdown of the lake, which they deemed to be the “correct” plan of action.

Zeger, project manager, said the inspection occurred after the “dewatering” of the reservoir had gotten underway. As a result, the water level at the time of the inspection was three to four feet lower than the normal pool level. In addition, the discharge pipe was not only operational, but working at “near full capacity.”

“During the inspection we found that, for the most part, the dam was visibly in good service condition. The crest of the embankment was in good alignment, the embankment had consistent slopes and no bulging and/or sliding was observed. The vegetation on the embankment of the dam structure was in good, mowed condition, and no unwanted vegetation was evident. The overall embankment showed little to no warning signs of failure,” said Zeger in the report.

As spillway design and ongoing seepage issues have been touted by PFBC and DEP as being the reasons behind the complete drawdown, both of those concerns were investigated by the engineers at CES. In fact, Zeger states, the “only significant dam structure issue” found during their investigation was a “moderate wet/seepage area found on the west side of the embankment that was located on the downstream face of the dam.

“At this location, the ground was soft and showed visual signs of long-term seepage,” he said. “ ... From our observations, the west side seepage has not affected the alignment or stability of the dam by erosion or dislocation of dam materials at this time ... We agree, over time, this seepage area could create a future issue for the dam embankment and should be addressed as soon as possible.”

In the report, Zeger goes on to outline remediation possibilities for the seepage issue and suggested that if “reasonable and cost-effective steps” were taken to examine and repair the dam structure now, a complete replacement of the earthen dam would likely not be required. “Much more economical” fixes could include a combination of relief wells, storage restrictions, grouting and an upstream imper- vious blanket,” he said.

In looking further into the possibility of pressure grouting the dam or an upstream impervious blanket, the overall cost of installing clay at an approximate depth of 18 inches over the affected area would be approximately $100,000.

Zeger also proposed limiting the storage of the reservoir by reducing the height or level of water behind the dam. As the ongoing drawdown has decreased the amount of seepage, a total drawdown of six to eight feet would “effectively diminish or even completely stop this small seepage,” according to the engineers.

“ ... We conclude that the dam is not currently in poor condition or displaying any signs of imminent or catastrophic failure. We do feel that the seepage issues must be addressed immediately or the dam could and most probably will be in danger of becoming the socalled ‘sunny day failure.’ However, at this time, the embankment is in good condition and does not need to be replaced,” said Zeger, who went on to ask that PFBC and DEP reevaluate their findings and consider reversing their decision to drawdown Meadow Grounds Lake that in and of itself could result in a “detrimental” economical and environmental effect. “ ... We are also concerned that continued high volume dewatering and diminishment of the reservoir in itself could render embankment stability issues, especially if a decision is made at a later date to restore the reservoir.”

Commissioners Rodney Mc- Cray, Craig Cutchall and Irvin Dasher unanimously agree there is definite “merit” in the findings revealed through the report prepared by CES, which was funded through $1,000 in Marcellus shale funding that requires projects to be recreational-based. In fact Commissioner McCray told the “News” he felt they were presented with another “solution” to the problem at Meadow Grounds. He noted he thought that the powers that be in this case, PFBC and DEP, would at least “give a second look and serious thought” to these new findings. Unfortunately, the fact the report came from a small firm and the county, may have been the reason it was discounted by state officials.

Commissioner Dasher added the county held off on releasing the report, which they had in their possession in the days prior to the public meeting, because they wanted to give PFBC and DEP additional time to read the documents and possibly reconsider their course of action. Given that the plan to drawdown the lake is moving forward regardless, the commissioners said they were “extremely disappointed” in the response from the state officials.

Not willing to give up, they noted they are still pursuing other solutions at this time. “We’re hoping it’s not done,” said Commissioner Cutchall.

A copy of the reports prepared by CES Engineering LLC can be found on the county’s Web site at http://www.co.fulton.pa.us.

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