ENGINEERS WERE this week to carrying out an urgent assessment of a 200 year old earth fill dam above Accrington, Lancashire, amid fears that it could give way.
The dam was last inspected in 1996, said Lancashire County Council (LCC) group engineer Roger Carroll. But repair and maintenance work ordered in 1991 has not been carried out by the dam's former owner.
LCC took on responsibility for the dam two months ago, amid fears that the structure could be breached, releasing the 25,000m 3reservoir.
The resulting torrent could rush across the A59 dual carriageway and into the town of Accrington, causing severe flooding. Lives and property would be in danger, said LCC councillor Tim Ormrod.
The alarm was raised less than a month after consultant Faber Maunsell was called to stabilise an earth fill dam in Wiltshire (News last week).
LCC had been pushing the Accrington dam's former owner to carry out repairs for over a decade.
NCE understands the structure had suffered from subsidence, overtopping and erosion.
The council finally took on responsibility for the structure after the dam's owner went into liquidation late last year.
Under the Reservoirs Act 1975 local authorities are responsible for enforcing inspection and maintenance of reservoirs above 25,000m 3. They can also carry out repairs and then extract the costs from a dam's owner, said chairman of the British Dam Society and KBR director of water engineering Andy Hughes.
But few authorities are willing to operate in this way as reclaiming money spent on repairs can be a lengthy and uncertain process.
The role of enforcing inspection and maintenance is due to be transferred from local authorities to the Environment Agency later this year as part of the Water Bill.