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Lake level could affect city water
Jan 31, 2007 12:00 am
While the city limits of Lebanon would likely not be endangered in the event of a catastrophic failure of the Wolf Creek Dam, the water supply could potentially be affected.
City officials will meet Monday at 7:30 a.m. to discuss contingency plans in case the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' worst fears to be realized. While the Corps is busy lowering the lake to a level of about 680 feet, if Kentucky's Lake Cumberland were at a higher level it could mean bad news for the city's water plant, just before of the Nathan Harsh Bridge traveling north on Hwy. 231 North.
The city's raw water pumps are located at 466 feet and 474 feet, respectively. Were a dam failure to occur today – with Lake Cumberland at about 690 feet – it could place the lower pumps in danger of flooding, becoming essentially unusable.
At higher levels, a large breach could result in flooding all of the pumps.
The city is considering installing new raw water pumps at the higher levels, and are also looking to address water quality, odor and taste issues which could arise from the lake being lowered.
"If that water gets lowered like they're speaking, later it warms up the water," Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said. "… Those kinds of things could affect odor and taste."
The city is looking at speeding up the installation of a carbon system which could address these concerns. The city is on the verge of issuing bids, which Baines said would cost roughly $100,000.
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox said the installation of this system would not be completed until well after the dam is lowered.
"We won't have that carbon system in until this fall," Fox said. "Well, that's a little late. The water's being lowered as we speak, so that means this spring and summer we may need to put carbon directly into the water."
And in the unlikely scenario where the city's water plant is actually compromised, the city is working on a contingency plan.
"If that dam breaches, we'll automatically kick in our emergency water plan," Fox said. "If the plant goes out, we have enough water tanks in Lebanon that we'll have enough water to run for a day and a half to three days. The plan would be that you close schools. You close industries – you back down on your water use and leaving the residents as the last to be affected."
However, the city of Mt. Juliet and large parts of northern Wilson County would be much more directly affected. Residents in the northern-most sectors of Lebanon could be affected as well. Fox said a dam breach would take about 18 hours for the Cumberland River to rise to dangerous levels, giving emergency officials to perform any necessary evacuations.
"We're not terribly concerned about 'in town,'" Fox said. "We're concerned about the north end of town, toward the river, and how can we help our neighbors?"
The Corps of Engineers has designated Wolf Creek Dam as a "high-risk" structure and are planning a massive project to shore up the dam over the next five years.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.