Motorists were blocked Wednesday from driving across the Windsor Lake dam in northeast Richland County after state officials closed the road that they say is potentially unsafe and in need of repair.
State officials said barricades went up after they met Tuesday night to discuss the portion of Chatsworth Road atop the dam. The dam, like many other earthen dams in South Carolina, was battered during a historic flood on Oct. 4.
The dam holds back the waters of Windsor Lake, a major residential pond above Decker Boulevard.
Dam managers said this week that the structure needs minor repairs but is otherwise safe. A 2010 Department of Health and Environmental Control inspection report said the dam was well maintained.
And as recently as Monday, DHEC said “there is no immediate threat to public safety at this time.’’ The agency’s written response followed questions by The State newspaper about automobile traffic over the dam.
But DHEC officials said in an email Wednesday night that the road had been closed “out of an abundance of caution.’’ The agency said it was awaiting confirmation from the dam’s owner that water levels in Windsor Lake would be lowered because of safety questions.
The Windsor Lake dam is among 75 across South Carolina that DHEC ordered last week to lower water levels. The orders said the dams appeared “unsafe and a potential danger to life and/or property.’’ The dams were supposed to be lowered by Tuesday. The orders also require the dams’ owners to inspect the structures and provide a plan of action to DHEC by Oct. 30.
As of Wednesday, DHEC said 36 dam representatives had responded to the 75 emergency orders. Dams across the state are under scrutiny because some three dozen breached as a result of the storm. More than half of those were in Richland and Lexington counties.
Paul Lawrence, who lives downstream from Windsor Lake, expressed concern this week about a crack down the center of the road, which he said raised questions about the dam’s safety. He said he’s glad DHEC closed Chatsworth Road, and the Windsor Lake dam owners started to lower water levels.
“It’s a real good thing,’’ he said.
Staff photographer Tim Dominick contributed