MIDDLETOWN, CT (WFSB) -- Several dams in the state could be putting families in danger.
Crystal Lake’s dam in Middletown broke 58 years ago.
“She opened the door and the water just took her out,” said Joan Russo, of Middletown, talking about her friend who was one of 40 to survive after 220 million gallons of water gushed through the Millbrook Road community.
“She floated out to the wires and she held on and that was it, she was saved,” Russo said.
Water heights reached 15 feet, and thankfully everyone survived.
However, farms were destroyed and damages were significant.
Russo lives downstream of that dam, on Sunnyslope Drive.
“The fact that it’s on a hill and coming into residences is scary,” Russo said.
The Channel 3 I-Team and Associated Press pulled from federal data and dozens of state public record requests, which show dams across America are designated in several ways.
In fact, some are considered “high hazard” because of the potential loss of life if they ever gave way.
Because Russo’s community is downstream, Crystal Lake dam fits that category. The likelihood that breaches might happen are labeled “poor” or “unsatisfactory,” during the inspection process.
To Russo’s surprise, the I-Team revealed Crystal Lake fits in one of those concerning categories too.
“I thought they took care of the problem,” Russo said.
It’s not just Crystal Dam in Middletown, but there are serious issues at a dozen dams all over the state.
For example, Fresh Water Pond dam in Enfield, Williams Pond dam in Glastonbury, and a handful in New London County, including Oxoboxo Lake dam, Hanover Reservoir dam, and Silvias Upper and Lower Pond dams.
Research reveals the issues are serious enough that if the dams were to break, there’s a high chance people could die.
Data shows Crystal Lake dam, owned by the state, needs to have its embankment crest raised to ensure water doesn’t get out as well as this list of other repairs.
“The state has people working on this, they should know with history, others are aware of what happened,” Russo said.
“As owner of the dam, the state of Connecticut takes that very seriously and that’s why we have an active project to repair that dam,” said Chuck Lee, assistant director of the Dam Safety Program.
With lives at risk, the Ch. 3 I-Team went straight to the state’s Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection to find out why the dangerous dams are still in disrepair, and why lives are still in danger.
“We know about those problems, it’s a point where it has to get to the top of the queue before we can do the design work,” Lee said.
However, the state isn’t the only owner of these dangerous dams. Some are town-owned, and others, privately owned.
For example, there’s a four story, 116-unit complex in Glastonbury that’s downstream of Williams Pond dam near the old soap factory. That privately-owned dam ranks in poor condition in a high-hazard area.
“You do have some low units, where a dam breach would happen and that’s why it’s a high hazard. If it were to blow, the water would affect the condominium association,” said engineer Laura Wildman.
The Williams Pond dam was inspected four years ago, and it was not where it should have been structurally.
“There is a stone masonry section of the dam that should be taken out and replaced in an area,” Wildman said.
The thing is, all dams, in the high hazard category, public or private, need to be inspected every two years.
The four-year gap in Glastonbury is a problem.
Those who don’t meet the requirements could face penalties set forth by the attorney general’s office.
Wildman assures people living nearby area residents that they have eyes on the dam each day and there are plans in place to fix it starting next year.
“If there was an imminent failure, they’d see this, they’d see leaking. There’s no leaking right now. There’s no fear that this dam is going to breach,” Wildman said.
What kinds of conditions could bring one of these ailing structures to the point of a total failure seen in Middletown in 1961?
“Rain, rain events, like a hurricane,” Lee said.
So far, Russo’s community in Middletown has been lucky and the state says they’ll need to wait at little longer to officially be in the clear.
“Within a couple of years, they’ll have a nice, perfectly new dam right there,” Lee said.
While they wait, Russo hopes history won’t repeat itself.
There are more than 4,000 dams in Connecticut, and data on all of them has been collected.
To see the specific data for a certain area, click here.