Irmo Dam Threatens Dozens of Residents Downstream - DatelineCarolina

Leaking Irmo Dam Threatens Dozens of Homes Downstream

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Shadowood residents can only look on and hope the quiet streams don't turn into dangerous floods. Shadowood residents can only look on and hope the quiet streams don't turn into dangerous floods.

By:  Jarid Munsch

An earthen dam is being watched closely by people living in Shadowood Court in Irmo.  D-HEC investigators say the leaking dam could break and flood the neighborhood downstream.

"I mean we always knew it was there, but we never had any concern about the integrity of the levy… it always seemed sound", says Ash Schwind, who lives directly downstream from the dam.

D-HEC has cut a trench through the dam to drain water and relieve pressure on the dam.

D-HEC believes a beaver is to blame for the leak.  They say beavers are known to dig into dams and create nests.  This weakens the entire dam.

Department of Natural Resources' Jay Butfiloski thinks the beaver may not be the only problem.

"It's very likely a combination of if there are beavers in the area, as well as maybe the engineering of the dam itself or the materials used in the engineering of the dam", said Butfiloski.

Butfiloski explains the dam is built of red clay, which prevents water from seeping through.  He also points out an important structural element is the steepness of the dam.  The steeper the dam, the more likely a beaver can dig its way inside.

The water draining through the new trench has to go somewhere.  In this case, it's Schwind's back yard.

"The beaver dam was a first for me; never seen one before", says Schwind.  "And now here it is in my back yard."

D-HEC officials say the drainage trench seems to be working and water levels have dropped, but they haven't come up with a permanent solution.

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