ASHBURNHAM — The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) said the recent adverse weather and flooding has not had any negative effect on the Factory Village Pond Dam despite that it was given the lowest rating for “condition” during its last official inspection.
A DCR spokesperson said the state is already underway with the process to resolve the issue with the dam and is currently spending several years to investigate how they will remove it, alongside a contract engineering firm.
In the National Inventory of Dams (NID) federal database, the Factory Village Pond Dam, which the state considers abandoned, had received the lowest rating in condition, “unsatisfactory,” during its most recent inspection in 2018.
In the years since it was abandoned the DCR said that they have been doing regular inspections and conducting maintenance as needed on the dam, which is constructed of masonry and earth and is still listed as owned by Paul G. Vanasse in the NID database.
According to the database, the “unsatisfactory” rating received by the Ashburnham dam means that “a dam safety deficiency is recognized that requires immediate or emergency remedial action for problem resolution.” Dams throughout the state are also rated on another important metric, “hazard potential,” or what exactly could happen to the surrounding area and population if a given dam did fail.
The Factory Pond Dam, located on Fitchburg Road, received the second to highest rating in hazard potential at “significant,” which means where failure or mis-operation results in no probable loss of human life but can cause economic loss, environment damage, disruption of lifeline facilities, or impact other concerns,” according to the NID.
The DCR spokesperson added that the state continues to regularly assess the condition and potential hazards of dams across the state and intervene in emergency situations when necessary.
In Ashby, the state agency has also begun a similar process with their own Damon Pond Dam, at Willard Brook State Forest, and said this dam wasn’t negatively affected by the recent floods either.
The DCR-owned dam was not assessed to be in as bad condition as the one on Factory Village Pond, but still received a “poor” condition rating, meaning that a “safety deficiency is recognized for normal operating conditions which may realistically occur and remedial action is necessary,” according to the NID.
However, if the dam did fail, the NID database, created by the US Army Corps of Engineers, states the effect would be significant to nearby populations. When inspected in June 2019 the Damon Pond Dam was given the highest hazard potential classification at “high,” meaning “failure or mis-operation will probably cause loss of human life.”
The DCR is under a contract with an engineering firm that is designing plans for the repair of the Damon Pond Dam and will take the project through the permitting process.