If a dam failed, would we be ready?

Updated: 05/27/2014 10:14 AM
Created: 05/23/2014 9:05 AM WNYT.com
By: Subrina Dhammi

Every dam in New York State is labeled with an A B or C.

The letters indicate how much damage could be caused, and could people be injured or killed if the dam actually failed.

“Hazard class has nothing to do with the condition of the dam, hazard class indicates what would happen in the unlikely event of a dam failure,” says retired DEC worker, Joe Albert.

Joe Albert worked with the Department of Environmental Conservation for 35 years, and for some time, he specifically worked on the hazard classifications for the dams.

He retired a few years ago.

DEC is in charge of giving the dams these labels, and there are a lot of dams across the state.

There are at least 4,000 dams represented on a map in the region.

The green dots are the lowest hazard in case of a failure, blue is intermediate, and the red dots are the highest hazard.

There are at least 62 high hazard dams in the Capital Region.

Because the blue and red dots, or the B and C dams, have a higher hazard, they should have an emergency plan in place.

“But just have a plan and have the 1st responders ready so they knew if there's a problem and what they need to do,” says Albert.

Most dams along the canal are 'B' hazard.

That means they should have an emergency plan in place and DEC says Canal Corporation is responsible for that.

Take lock 9 in Rotterdam Junction, we know there was a lot of damage to this dam during tropical storm Irene, part of the structure washed away.

At the time of the storm, there was no emergency plan in place for the dam.

The most recent records we could find in our repeated questions to DEC shows as of 2 years ago, there was still no emergency plan for Locks 8, 9 or 10, all B hazard dams.

Here's why it's so important to have a plan in place.

Back in 2005, the Hadlock Pond Dam in Queensbury failed.

It's a high hazard dam.

“Few weeks, maybe a month prior to that failure, they just redid their emergency action plan and they had an exercise,” says Albert. “It is my opinion, because they did that, there was no loss of life there and there could have been.”

We remember how much water flowed into Rotterdam Junction during Irene.

And how people say they got little to no warning and had to run for the lives up a mountain because the water came in so fast.

Had there been an emergency plan in place, could some of those horrific moments been avoided?

If you want to take a look at the map to find the hazard classification of a dam near you, click on the link below, and scroll down to 'New York State Dams Inventory'.  Click on the blue ball.



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