MVSD chairman cites two studies, dam inspection and engineers for new opinion of dam’s safety

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio - Atty. Matt Blair, chairman of the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District board of directors, who raised red flags about cracks in MVSD buildings and Meander Dam, has reversed course, saying the cracks in the dam poses no danger to the public. On Thursday, Blair cited multiple sources – a final engineering report released Monday, a preliminary engineering report released Wednesday, a recent Ohio Department of Natural Resources inspection of the dam and the opinion of MVSD engineers – that indicate the dam is “completely safe.” Blair said he was not prepared to release the most recent report from Gannett Fleming, a Harrisburg, Pa., engineering company, until the next MVSD meeting, which is not yet scheduled. Blair wrote several letters last summer to the ODNR and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking for help in determining whether “ground shifting” is occurring near the Meander facilities that would explain cracking in the dam and MVSD buildings, especially since Niles was in the midst of a record-breaking year in 2016 for waterline breaks.


A Vindicator review of an engineering report dated Monday from Gannett Fleming doesn’t specifically address the dam’s integrity. “The cracks in the top of dam roadway may have developed due to heavy equipment traveling over the slab with wheel alignment near the edges,” the report says. The only recommendation given for addressing the dam cracks is that, “Replacement of the top of dam roadway is included as a feature in the upcoming design and construction of dam modifications project.” Blair has discussed the dam- modification project as an estimated $28 million upgrade to the 90-year-old dam to ensure that it is able to continue to function well into the future. The study Gannett Fleming released Monday at a cost of $9,922 was supposed to include an inspection of the top of the dam, emergency spillway structures and gatehouse but not include a “detailed inspection, measurements, or survey and mapping of cracks,” according to an October 2016 letter. Gannett Fleming is conducting another study at a cost of $396,000 that involves soil borings to explore what is below the dam’s surface. Gannett Fleming provided the MVSD with a preliminary report based on that study Wednesday.

Thank you, Ron