MDEQ is responsible for dam safety statewide

Carroll County dam breach prompts questions about inspection protocol.

MDEQ is responsible for dam safety statewide
This map shows the inundation path for the dam that breached in Carroll County. (Source: MDEQ)

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -Officials are still closely monitoring a dam breach in Carroll County It was the result of flash flooding in the area but it’s prompting us to ask more about who inspects dams around the state.

“Dams are one of those things that are more or less, out of sight, out of mind.”

Dam Inspections

But with more than 6,800 scattered around the state, there’s always the chance for one to fail. And they do. Dams get assigned one of three hazard classifications: high, significant, or low. Those classifications dictate the protocol for inspections.

“The high and significant hazard dams, those that pose a threat to either life or property, those are inspected annually either by the dam owner or by an engineer that’s hired by the owner," explained Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Dam Safety Division Chief Dusty Myers. "And then our office also does some spot checks as well to verify the conditions.”

In the case of the Carroll County dam that failed, it is considered a watershed dam. There are more than 500 of that type across the state that were built with federal aid to control flooding and erosion.

“It’s kind of handled a little differently than our typical privately owned dams," noted Myers. "A lot of those we try to go out and inspect ourselves more frequently because there are numerous issues with those particular drainage districts where they don’t have enough funding to do the operation and maintenance.”

Every dam in the state has an emergency action plan that’s available on MDEQ’s website. It shows how many homes are in the path if a breach were to occur and includes a flow-chart of who gets called, in what order.

We should note that no one in Mississippi has ever been killed due to a dam failure. BUT there are failures every year. In other cases, the breach is planned so as to avoid a sudden failure at a later time.

Copyright 2018 WLBT. All rights reserved.