In 2022, during several recorded meetings with the LHV board of directors, questions were raised by board members regarding the condition of the dams at Lake Helmerich Village. The maintenance supervisor stated that they were all doing well... except for Lake Ralph, which he thought was in dangerously bad shape. Board members also discovered that villager's had notified him regarding Lake Frank leaking several years ago.
Mr. Sherman stated that there was a leak in the Lake Frank dam. The board learned that the he had not only known this was a problem for several years, but had yet to take action to repair the dam.
During the meeting, the board found that along with the leak, there was a valve on Lake Frank that was broken and in need of repair. This had gone unrepaired for the past several years also. Most board members were just now learning about problems with our dams.
Various board members asked about getting someone out to inspect the dams and to certify that they are safe. Board member David Mayse, and Mr. Sherman were adamantly apposed to getting someone out to inspect the dams. Mayse and Sherman were asked why? Mr. Mayse exclaimed, “ I’m, I’m talking about the... the last thing we want in here is State anything.”
Sherman stated, “They do dam inspections, but we... we got to fix it ourselves. We don’t want to advertise it. Cause they could make you cut that dam down.”
Board member Mayse also admitted to knowing about the bad valve and potential leak in Lake Frank for several years.
***Picture of rusted out pipe in the outflow pipe on Lake Ralph
It was found later through the State of Indiana inspection records that 2 of our dams are considered to be in poor condition and the rest that were inspected showed themselves to be only in "fair condition".
The inspection reports were found in public records.
For reference, our dams are in poor to fair condition. This is what the State shows for definitions.
FAIR: No existing dam safety deficiencies are recognized for normal loading conditions. Infrequent hydrologic and/or seismic events would probably result in a dam safety deficiency. (Heavy rains, leaks from pipes, dam face or bad valves are attributed to hydrological events)
POOR: A potential dam safety deficiency is clearly recognized for normal loading conditions. Immediate actions to resolve the deficiency are recommended; reservoir (lake level) restrictions may be necessary until problem resolution.
In 2021 it was discovered that the spillway pipe on Lake Helmerich was leaking in the bottom of the pipe. The board and maintenance staff discussed the necessity of getting it repaired as soon as possible. It was relayed that this was an important thing to do or risk potential failure to the dam’s structure, so it was decided by the board members to epoxy coat the pipe to seal the leak. But to do this properly, LHV would need to drop the level of the lake to be able to access the pipe.
This was explained to the villagers at a board meeting.
The epoxy repair was bid for $5,000. The funds were voted on and the lake was drained down to access the pipe for the repair.
The board was told by Sherman that the company came to do the epoxy repairs, assumptions were made that the job was completed. Sherman inferred that everything went fine.
It was then later found out that the epoxy guy did come out, but Sherman didn't have him do the job he was hired to do. Sherman also failed to tell anyone that no repair was made. The lake was refilled without repairing the pipe.
Treasurer Ryan Hilsmeyer told the board that we were never charged for the $5,000. Sherman did not have it done. Board member David Mayse defended Sherman's decision and told the board that he had spoken to Sherman about it and was told, that he didn't think it needed to be done and Sherman, "Saved us a bunch of money."
Sarel Pretorius brought up that there was also a valve that needed to be repaired. Sherman knew it needed to be done but had failed to repair it also.
Sherman later told the board that he'd discovered the pipe was leaking again.
Lake Ralph was never inspected by the State, so the true condition is unknown.
Kevin had stated there was a fear it would fail.
The board discussed building a rip rap spillway. But it was never started, and thus never completed.
This was discussed for nearly 6 months.
To date nothing has been completed and we honestly do not know if our dams around the lakes are safe.
Even though our dams are not considered high risk, a dam failure would be potentially catastrophic to the shorelines on lower lakes and erosion potentially damaging our homes.
It speaks volumes when a board member will not put the safety of our dams as a priority.
Keeping the maintenance on our dams up to date keeps us from the cost of potential shutdown of that lake and the costs to rebuild.
Seepage can emerge anywhere on the downstream face, beyond the toe, or on the downstream abutments at elevations below normal pool. Seepage may vary in appearance from a "soft," wet area to a flowing "spring." It may show up first as an area where the vegetation is lush and darker green. Cattails, reeds, mosses, and other marsh vegetation often become established in a seepage area. Another indication of seepage is the presence of rust-colored iron bacteria. Due to their nature, the bacteria are found more often where water is discharging from the ground than in surface water. Seepage can make inspection and maintenance difficult. It can also saturate and weaken portions of the embankment and foundation, making the embankment susceptible to earth slides.
If the seepage forces are large enough, soil will be eroded from the foundation and be deposited in the shape of a cone around the seepage outlet. If these "boils" appear, professional advice should be sought immediately.
Seepage flow which is muddy and carrying sediment (soil particles) is evidence of "piping," and could very possibly cause failure of the dam. Piping can occur along a spillway and other conduits through the embankment, (such as a leak in a pipe) and these areas should be closely inspected. Sinkholes may develop on the surface of the embankment as internal erosion takes place. A whirlpool in the lake surface may follow and then likely a rapid and complete failure of the dam. Emergency procedures, including downstream evacuation, should be implemented if this condition is noted.
(Currently LHV has no emergency plans in place.)
A continuous or sudden drop in the normal lake level is another indication that seepage is occurring. In this case, one or more locations of flowing water are usually noted downstream from the dam. This condition, in itself, may not be a serious problem, but will require frequent and close monitoring and professional assistance.
Employing resistivity for dam safety investigations can help with:
There are many aspects of a dam’s integrity which could be investigated, and these will normally be the primary factor in defining the methodology.
What does this mean?
In a nutshell, electricity is run through the dams soil and a monitor reads the electrical resistence (measured in ohms) throughout the dam structure. Water is very conductive and shows a different ohm level than say dry earth. It can narrow down the area where the leak is.