Safety issue identified at Stevens Pond dam

Repair funds to be voted on at Liberty town meeting
By Fran Gonzalez | Feb 12, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Water passes over the Stevens Pond Dam Feb. 8. Calligan Diving Services identified a breach in the dam and called the situation a safety issue with summer swimming lessons that occur in the general area.

Liberty —

The town was alerted recently about a safety issue having to do with a breach at Stevens Pond Dam.

Calligan Mooring & Dive Service of Searsmont, the contractor hired by the town to make repairs at Lake St. George dam, investigated a “swirl” that developed near Stevens Pond Dam. According to Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds, the swirl developed about five years ago.

In a conversation with The Journal Feb. 7, Reynolds said the diving service offered to make a video of the dam at no charge. In December, after "wading down," Calligan discovered a hole which it considers a safety issue, especially with the town-sponsored swimming lessons occurring in the same general area every summer.

“Kids can get stuck in the hole,” Reynolds said.

In her time as road commissioner, she said, the town has placed 75 sandbags in front of a hole in Stevens Pond Dam. She said the “sandbags disappeared and came out the other side.”

“We’ve known this existed, but have been busy with the Lake St. George dam,” Reynolds said.

About 25 years ago, she said, Stevens Pond Dam was rebuilt and capped with concrete, which the town is just now paying off. Sheets of metal pilings were used, which extended down 16 feet before hitting ledge. She said the joint between the pilings and the ledge was never properly sealed and is a possible source of the leak.

Richard Calligan, owner of the mooring and dive service, told The Journal Feb. 10 the leak is located at the bottom of the sheet pile, and pressure from the vacuum created could possibly "hold you there or suck you through if small enough."

"I would not want my daughter swimming there," he said.

Reynolds said, “We’ve been officially alerted that it is a safety issue,” and residents will now have to decide to either fix the safety issue or close the pond off to swimming entirely.

“I don’t see how the town can ignore this,” she said.

Reynolds recommended using Calligan’s services, saying, “They did excellent work, finished on time and kept us informed” when working on the Lake St. George Dam. She added it is helpful that they are not just a construction company, but also a diving team.

Calligan officials said they could start the project the second week in May and that it would take about a week to complete.

In an email to The Journal Feb. 11, state dam inspector John Skelley of the Maine Emergency Management Agency said he had not looked at the Stevens Pond Dam personally, having only been an inspector for the past five months. After going through historical engineering reports, Skelley said there was indication of a leak of some kind, but that it was not observed the day the report was taken.

Skelley also said there was mention of a leak and possibly "piping (a void path for water to travel through the dam from upstream to downstream), but the piping couldn’t be confirmed as it is mostly an internal issue with a dam."

The inspector confirmed that the dam was worked on in the late '90s to "try and mitigate some of the leakage and the 'sucking' through of material."

The report concludes with recommendations for the town to monitor the dam for any more issues that could develop on the upstream side, mainly sinkholes. Sinkholes, Skelley said, would indicate piping and larger void space that would “suck” in material.

Without seeing the dam, Skelley said, he could not confirm reports of the possibility that people might get sucked through the dam and said the safety office will inspect the dam when conditions allow.

The issue will come before Liberty residents at the annual town meeting March 28, with the article stipulating funds should not exceed $52,000.

The Stevens Pond Dam, shown here Feb. 8, has been identified as having a breach. The situation could potentially be a safety concern with summer swimming lessons occurring near the dam. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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