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Balch Pond dam rating worsens

AYER — The Balch Pond Dam was rated with significant hazard potential this past June during a safety inspection by the Department of Public Works.

The inspection followed a previous inspection in June 2012 when the dam was rated in poor condition. A Notice of Failure to Comply with Dam Safety order was received on June 11, 2015, prompting the follow-up inspection.

The phase I inspection was conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the phase II inspection was conducted by Daniel Van Schalkwyk, the town’s engineer.

“There is a rating system for all dams in the state and based on phase one and two inspections, Balch Pond was determined in poor condition, which is the second worst condition,” Schalkwyk said.

There are three hazard classifications implemented by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials: A high hazard potential, a significant hazard potential and a low hazard potential.

“The dam is rated in the middle, which may cause property damage if it were to totally fail. But right now there are no concerns of that,” Schalkwyk said.

The dam was rated in poor condition due to a variety of issues including erosion, less than level crest elevation and loose channel walls.

“The dam is at its age where it has structural deficiencies which are nothing that will fail in the near future. But it’s to a point where we have to do improvements to it,” Schalkwyk said.

Legal ownership of the dam is currently under review due to its location, which is on East Main Street and partly owned by MassDOT.

“Whoever is found responsible for the dam will have to take care of improvements and continue the follow-up inspections,” Schalkwyk said.

An exact improvement plan has not been determined due to the ownership review but repair recommendations have been made.

“We are going to continue with our follow-up inspections to ensure the dam isn’t in worsening condition. Moving forward will depend on the ownership,” Schalkwyk said.

The dam is being maintained as needed while ownership is being reviewed.

“Mowing crews are scheduled to maintain the vegetated areas,” Schalkwyk said. “Stop logs are installed and removed as needed to maintain a consistent normal pool elevation.”

Residents do not need to be concerned about the dam’s condition, he said.

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