Environment

A double whammy: Dams that are high hazard and in poor condition

While Hurricane Florence could endanger animal waste lagoons, hazardous waste sites and other toxic repositories, there is another potential hazard to consider: Weak dams Of the 3,000 dams statewide, 1,447 are designated as “high hazard” in the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s inventory. If the structure were to fail, there is a substantial risk of harm to people and property.

By state law, owners of dams designated high or intermediate are required to file with DEQ an emergency action plan, known for short as an EAP, although as the database shows, many of them don’t. High-hazard dams are also supposed to be inspected every two years, while intermediate- and low-hazard dams are on a five-year cycle.

Of these high hazard dams, 126 are also listed in poor condition — signified in red in the map above. Some of these dams are government- or corporate-owned but most are private: Homeowners’ associations, individuals, trusts.

The track of Hurricane Florence has moved south as of Wednesday. The storm is enormous, though, and effects will likely be felt well outside the storm’s path. (Map: National Hurricane Center)

You can zoom in on the map and click on a symbol to see the dam’s owner, the nearest town, the river basin and other information. If a dam is listed as “breached” in this database, it has been intentionally dismantled. This happened in 2017 with the privately owned Woodlake Dam in Moore County, which was in such bad condition the state took it over and breached the dam in order to drain the lake.

Of the 590 intermediate hazard dams 26 are listed in poor condition, symbolized by the purple markers below.

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