Report flags 145 of Pennsylvania’s dams as dangerous

The Associated Press says those high-risk structures are in poor condition, and could kill people if they collapse.

  • Katie Meyer/WITF

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania is home to a lot of old dams—many of which are privately owned.

The state agency that regulates those dams says it has serious concerns about 145 of them.

The new numbers come from the Associated Press. After a two-year investigation, reporters found more than 1,600 dams around the country that could be susceptible to collapse.

The Dam Safety Division of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection classifies dams as high-hazard if a failure could endanger peoples’ lives.

740 of the commonwealth’s dams are in that category. And of those, 145 are reportedly in poor or unsatisfactory condition.

One is the more than 120-year-old dam at Lake Scranton, which is holding 2.5 billion gallons of water close to the city. The private Pennsylvania American Water Company owns it, and has been working to get the structure in compliance with state regulations.

Pennsylvania is no stranger to dam disasters. The most infamous was the 1889 Johnstown flood that killed over 2,000 people.

These days, the commonwealth spends nearly $3 million annually on dam improvement—the second most in the country.

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has proposed using money from a natural gas severance tax to route even more dollars to high-risk dams, though the GOP-controlled legislature hasn’t been receptive.

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