Liberty residents approved spending up to $25,000 to fix dams at Stevens Pond and Lake St. George at a special town meeting Monday, July 30. The money will come from the town's surplus account.

Linda Breslin, president of the Citizen's Association of Liberty Lakes, or CALL, said both dams have been leaking for some time now and with the current drought conditions, the low water level has gotten worse.

According to Breslin, two or three years ago the town paid $8,000 for a company to inspect the dams and give suggestions on how to resolve the issues. The Stevens Pond dam had some work done at that time, but problems still persist.

In 2015, Maine Department of Transportation overhauled the road across the town-owned Lake St. George dam and installed a cement box culvert. Since then, Liberty Dam Manager Tammy Reynolds said, water has found its way around the outside of the culvert — she said she believes it is the result of poor construction planning by the state.

She said the state has distanced itself from the problem, leaving the town to foot the bill for repairs.

Reynolds noted in an email to The Republican Journal that in spring 2016, as the Lake St. George dam, road and culvert project was being finished, adjusting the gate per the water regimen, she noticed "swirls on either side of the cement culvert."

She said she immediately put the steel plate in place to "go down under" and see what the cause of the swirling water might be but discovered the water would not stop flowing.

According to Reynolds, when she contacted state officials, they did not seem concerned.

"They had always looked at the project as their road, our (the town's) dam, and they still do," she said.

One resident asked if the town consulted an attorney about the allegedly faulty work.

"As far as we know, no," answered one of the selectmen.

Reynolds contacted a state dam expert who recommended Commercial Divers Inc. of Bangor, a company that specializes in dam repairs and problem solving. The company spent two hours inspecting both dams and said they could "absolutely" fix the Stevens Pond dam.

On the Lake St. George dam, the company identified the problem — visible leaks in the new cement part of the culvert — but were hesitant to take on the structural part of the job, Reynolds said.

Under the road at the Route 220 dam, she said, a 60-foot concrete culvert was installed by the state; on the lake side, 9 feet of metal culvert is "rusted and rotted." The metal culvert extends to 20 feet of rock culvert. One of the discovered leaks is where the cement culvert meets the metal, Reynolds said, where gaps allow water to escape.

"We use to be able to drop a metal plate in the gate and stop the flow of water," Reynolds said. "Now there is no way to control the water because water on either side of the culvert is leaking."

She said Commercial Divers Inc. proposed dropping 20-mil poly sheeting on either side of the culvert to stop the leak. Then a slipline, or a continuous pipe, could be installed on the inside of the leaking pipe.

This will mitigate the leaking issue, Reynolds said,"but until you get the structural problem under the road addressed, the dam is vulnerable to collapse."

Reynolds said Commercial Divers Inc. charges $4,700 a day and guarantees the work for 20 years. Commercial Divers Inc. will begin repair work on both dams during the first week of September. If there is a cancellation in their schedule, work may begin sooner.

Breslin, of CALL, cautioned residents that $25,000 will not completely resolve the Lake St. George dam issue.

"The town still has to consider an ultimate fix and that certainly can't be done for the amount of money that's been allotted," she said.