PA DEP & Broomall’s Lake Water Level

Jun 12, 2013 by

Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) is siphoning water from Broomall’s Lake. This is in order to inspect the dam, and to determine why the water is not being kept at a lowered “drawdown” level – in violation of multiple requests by the PA DEP since December 2009. Broomall’s Dam has been declared an Unsafe, High Hazard dam since 1980, and the goal of drawdown is to keep the lake level as low as possible to minimize pressure on the dam until Broomall’s Dam is either replaced or removed.

Here is an overview of the lake level since the first 2009 request, and links to each of the PA DEP letters.


Water level lowered in 2010

Broomall's Lake on Google Earth 4-11-2010

Broomall’s Lake with lowered water level, exposing yards of shoreline on the North and East banks, on Google Earth April 11, 2010

In a letter dated December 23, 2009, the PA DEP directed Broomall’s Lake Country Club (BLCC), the operator of the dam, to have the lake in “drawdown” at all times, which means that the drain pipe (or conduit) is open at all times.

Stating that “a project planned for the future does nothing for public safety now”, the PA DEP said, “because of the increasing risk to public safety posed by Broomall’s Lake Dam in its present condition, it is imperative that all parties associated with the dam cooperate to minimize the risk as much as possible while the legal issues and project plans are finalized.”

After this letter was sent, the lake level was drastically lowered and remained lowered through most of 2010, as shown in this April 11, 2010 image from Google Earth. You can click on the photograph for a larger image.


Water level raised since 2011

Broomall's Lake on Google Earth 10-7-2011

Broomall’s Lake with water level raised again, on Google Earth  October 7, 2011

However, by the summer of 2011, the lake level had been drastically raised, as it still was in this October 7, 2011 image from Google Earth.

Subsequently, in a letter dated March 28, 2012, the PA DEP reminded BLCC of the December 2009 letter, stating that the water level is to remain lowered as much as possible at all times (bold and underlined by the PA DEP), going on to state, “As you know, this dam is in very poor condition and is actually considered to be an “Unsafe” structure.”

The level of Broomall’s Lake was not re-lowered, and a July 2, 2012 letter sent by the PA DEP to Media Borough, BLCC and Delaware County reiterated, “Until the dam safety issues have been addressed at this dam, the water level is to remain lowered…”


Waterfall & Spillway

Broomall's Dam 4-24-2010

Broomall’s Dam in “drawdown”, with water flowing only through the outlet pipe, when the lake level was lowered in April 2010

Upon inspection on the day of our Dam Safety Workshop in August 2012, Richard Reisinger of the PA DEP confirmed that the lake was not in drawdown, and therefore not in compliance, since there was water coming over the top of the spillway (the top of the waterfall). 

The PA DEP has explained that water should not come over the spillway, but only through the pipe. However, water has consistently flowed over the spillway since at least the summer of 2012, showing a lack of compliance with the PA DEP’s requests.

Compare the photograph on the right of the waterfall in compliance in April 2010, to the photograph below it of the waterfall out of compliance in November 2012.


Safety Today

Broomall's Dam waterfall 11-4-2012

Broomall’s Dam in violation of the PA DEP requests, with water flowing over the spillway, in November 2012

The persistent unsafe condition of the dam has ultimately led to the PA DEP’s intervention today. Further, the PA DEP declared in a May 10, 2013 letter that it intends to breach (remove) Broomall’s Dam if no progress is made by November 1, 2013 to replace or remove the dam.

While the PA DEP correspondence repeatedly refers to the danger to the homes along Ridley Creek Road, downstream of Broomall’s Dam, Glen Providence Park lies between the dam and those homes. The park, its plants and wildlife, and anyone in the valley of the park at the time of a sudden dam failure would be at risk. The failure to keep the lake level drawn down as much as possible increases the danger to lives, the park, and the homes downstream.

If you witness water flowing over the top of the waterfall (the spillway), please report this violation to the PA DEP by calling Roger Adams, Chief, Division of Dam Safety at 717-772-5951.


You can read each of the referenced letters from the PA DEP:
December 23, 2009
March 28, 2012
July 2, 2012
May 10, 2013

And you can read more about safety issues with the dam in our August 2012 Dam Safety Workshop with the PA DEP.



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