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County dams inspected

'Everything seems to be OK' with Potomac River structures

'Everything seems to be OK' with Potomac River structures

August 09, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Officials from the National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation were out early Wednesday, snapping pictures and taking notes at Dam No. 4 in Sharpsburg.

The work was part of a routine dam inspection, which is conducted by the two agencies every four or five years, according to Chris Danley, civil engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation.

"We're basically out here making observations, looking at the dam to see if anything has changed or if there's anything we should be concerned about," Danley said.

Danley said the inspection at Dam No. 4 and a later inspection Wednesday at Dam No. 5 in Clear Spring turned up "nothing unusual."

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"Everything seems to be OK," Danley said.

Inspectors were checking the dams, which are both more than 100 years old, for structural problems by examining water seeping through the dam.

"The two biggest indicators of a problem would be water seepage in new locations or larger amounts of water coming through," Danley said.

During the Dam No. 4 inspection, Danley said workers took pictures of spots on the face of the dam where water was seeping through the rock and will compare them to prior inspection reports to determine if anything has changed.

Danley said some minor seepage is normal, but that it should not spread or increase.

The inspection was coordinated with Allegheny Energy, which uses the dams for hydroelectric power generation.

Early Wednesday, the water level at Dam No. 4 was lowered about a foot to expose the concrete ledge of the structure. Inspectors peered over the edge of a grassy walkway to examine the ledge for "any unusual cracks or abnormalities," Danley said.

Inspectors then walked below the slackwater area and took pictures of the dam's wall from about 30 feet away.

Danley said separate inspections are scheduled every five or six years in which divers swim out to examine the downstream sides of both dams below the water's surface.

"That allows them to look at things a little more closely. This is basically a surface inspection," Danley said.

Both dams were built in the mid-1800s and were modified to provide hydroelectric power in the early 1900s, said William T. Justice, chief of interpretation for the National Park Service.

Neither one has had any major structural problems since the 1930s, when Dam No. 4 was repaired after a flood, Justice said.

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